The Consequences of Brexit

20640736-mmmain.jpg

I was away on holiday during the vote, I mean I go away for 3 weeks and you lot exit the EU, WTF! Oddly enough I was outside the EU in Norway, basking in land of milk and honey the leave camp promised us?…well actually no.

The Norwegians couldn’t understand why Britain left the EU. They have to pay to be a member of the EEA (one of them was moaning to me about its considerable costs) yet not gain any of the benefits of being an EU member. The main reason why Norway is not in the EU boils down to fisheries. Not because they fear EU regulations, actually they feel the EU doesn’t regulate fisheries enough.

But at least the Norwegians have control over their borders right? No! There are more migrants per capita in Norway than in the UK, about 25% more in fact and they are arriving at a much faster rate than in the UK (nearly 3 times higher per capita faster). At one point (keeping in mind I was in rural areas, small fishing villages, not major towns) I was on a bus, the driver was Chechen, there were several middle eastern gentlemen (who got off at a fish factory, where clearly they were working), quite a few Chinese (and with the prams and shopping bags, I’m guessing they were locals), some tourists like me and perhaps one or two actual Norwegians.

And Switzerland has double the number of migrants per capita that Norway has. The only EEA, non-EU country that has a lower number of migrants than the UK is Iceland (which is only marginally lower). Which probably has less to do with Iceland’s migration policy and everything to do with the name of your country including the word “Ice” in it (hence, migrants tend to give it a wide berth fearful they’ll freeze to death or be eaten by a polar bear). So unless the Brexiters are proposing to rename the UK “Icebergland” or “Monster Island”, its unlikely this will have any impact on migration.

And already a number of the predictions and warnings are starting to come true, the pound has plunged in value, the stock markets were down $2 trillion in just 48 hrs, trading in certain shares was actually suspended at one point. Inflation is likely to rise, food prices will go up and many of those retiree’s and people on low incomes who voted leave will soon themselves considerably worse off and baring the brunt of consequences (as predicted).

Immediately I felt this effect as it meant everything started becoming more expensive. Room’s I’d booked a few days earlier suddenly rose in price rapidly. It was like living in Zimbabwe. I was in a queue waiting to change the last of my Kronor’s in Oslo airport, reading the news when I saw the story about the UK being downgraded by all 3 of the major rating’s agencies, so when I was asked which currency I’d like my money back in I said euro’s, rather than pounds.

Dirty rotten scoundrels – Project Betrayal

On his way out the door Cameron said that the leave camp had a lot to live up to, by which he meant all the insane lies and promises they made prior to the vote. Well less than 24 hrs after the vote they were breaking every single promise made. Apparently they never promised the NHS £350 million a week, despite driving around on a bus with that written on it.

480 (1)

Nor indeed will there be any changes to immigration law, because there’s no proof anyone voted leave due to fears over….despite the leave camp stirring up racial hatred for months (to the point where an MP got murdered). After all if Britain applies such restrictions to other EU states, they’d reply by doing the same to Britain in turn (which would lead to many ex-pats from the UK being forced to return home, and millions of them coming back in all at once would make any current issues regarding migrations seem pretty small).

177763_600

And fishermen have been warned to expect no increases in allowed catches. Indeed, the experts have been warning of over fishing for years, post-Brexit the expert advise would probably by for a complete halt to all fishing in UK waters for a few years.

To EEA or not to EEA?

The crucial question the markets are asking is whether or not the UK will now go for a “Norway model” of EEA membership. This would give the UK access to the single European market and involve the least amount of disruption to the economy.

CZWn5FtWIAAck6Y

However, as noted earlier this represents pretty poor value for money. The UK would still essentially have to pay the EU for the privilege (Norway pays 83% of what we pay now), most of those pesky EU laws the leave camp were hammering on about would remain in place, only now the UK gets no say in any future changes to said laws (our EU parliament members are essentially replaced by fax machine in Whitehall through which future EU dictates will be received and implemented with question). And crucially there will have to be a commitment to free movement of people, the Germans have been pretty clear about that one.

The only reason Norway and Iceland accept these terms (rather than just go the whole hog and join the EU) is because of issues regarding fisheries (as noted), while the Swiss worry about the EU trying to arrest all its bankers and money launderers, if they became a member. So these countries accept these conditions for very specific reasons.

Yes there will be some changes. Much like other EEA countries, EU citizens coming over will have to fill in a few forms, it becomes a bit easier to deny them benefits (until they start working and paying taxes of course). But once they’ve been here long enough it will make no difference in real terms, just more bureaucracy (which of course UK tax payers will be paying for of course). The likelihood is that the result will be (as noted) no decrease in migration. Indeed in certain scenarios it could lead to an increase in migration, as minorities in the EU who currently can’t apply for asylum in the UK will gain that right.

The UK will also be able to pick and chose to keep certain elements of legislation its adopted from the EU. And the main two areas where they will be able to effect change are employment law and the environment. In short, its likely the Tories will now gut employment laws and remove many of the rights and protections that workers, particularly low income workers. have long relied on. By voting for Brexit they have now voted to remove the laws that say, stops you being fired by your boss just because you got sick or insisted on wearing a safety harness to stop you falling to your death. And forget about asking for Christmas day off to be with your family, or for overtime pay.

As for the environment, its now likely the laws here will also be gutted. Its now questionable, if not very improbable that the UK will remain committed to its the promises made during the Paris climate conference. Siemens has already announced it is freezing all wind farm development in the UK. Its also been warned that the £20 billion in new energy infrastructure the UK now needs to keep the lights on may not be build in time. Warnings have also been raised about further delays or a cancellation of Hinkley C.

Rise of UKIP?

Now while the markets, private industry and quite a few in the Tory party are quite happy to push back from the table and take EEA membership as the least worse option, this is very different from the milk and honey” promises made during the referendum. Of the leave camp people, I can count using my thumbs the number who voted leave for reason other than immigration. Many of the Brexit voters, once they realise they’ve been conned on a massive scale, will probably not accept those terms and probably drive for something else. Of course they won’t get it, but they’ll try. As Paul Mason puts it:

What happens when the investment banks move to Frankfurt, the carmakers to Hungary, the offshore finance wizards to Dublin, the tech companies to newly independent Scotland? What happens when, instead of Poles, it is poor white English people herded into the polytunnels of Kent to pick strawberries for union-busting gangmasters?”

But if the Tories think they’ve killed off UKIP, think again. My guess is that whoever emerges from the Tory leadership contest will go to the EU, sign away Britain’s sovereignty in exchange for EEA access, leave the country worse off than it was before. There will be (as noted) no specific immigration restrictions.

UKIP will ignore the reasoning behind this (reason and logic aren’t exactly their strong points) and they will respond to this complete betrayal of every promise made during the referendum by campaigning at the next election on a platform for tearing up any EEA agreement and “shutting the border”. They’ll promise a points system (which as I’ve discussed before, won’t work and ignores certain fundamental facts such as the fact that Canada or Australia don’t apply their points system to their immediate neighbours), and much other silliness. Inevitably they’ll pick up some significant portion of the leave vote and likely split the Tory vote.

In essence all Cameron will have done is guarantee that his warring party will now struggle to ever get a majority in future. They will only ever be able to form coalition governments with either the lib dem’s, labour, or if desperate UKIP.

Labour unity?

Now is the time for labour to take advantage of the political chaos in the Tory party, rise above events and cease the moment…..if they weren’t at war with themselves! Okay, Corbyn could have been a bit more active during the referendum campaign, but to blame him for Brexit is simply not fair. The blame lies squarely with Cameron. Like everything else he screwed it up, holding it at a time of year when the turnout from young voters would be low (as they won’t be at term time addresses, or working, or at Glastonbury) and millions of Brits abroad or EU citizens who’ve lived here all of their lives were excluded from the vote.

BOB281115_3512561b

But such is the labour party’s hatred for their own leader, he can’t do anything right. If he rescued a baby from a burning building, half his team would quit on grounds that he was anti-fire, mocking man’s greatest invention while taking jobs away from hard working firemen.

A labour leadership battle now could not be more ill-timed. And the balance of probability is, either Corbyn will emerge victorious (once the party faithful have another vote) or someone else from the hard left of the party will take over in his place. Granted, labour’s changes at the next election are better with a centrist in charge, but a leaderless, warring labour party has no chance.

Scotland?

1973

As expected, the SNP have suggested a 2nd referendum on Scottish independence is now very likely. 63% of Scot’s voted to stay in the EU, in parts of Edinburgh, the remain vote was as high as 78%. And as also expected, opinion polls are starting to show a lead for independence. A recent poll post-EU referendum suggests a whopping 27% lead to independence, although previous polls suggest a smaller lead.

It would make sense for the SNP to delay any independence vote for as long as possible. Let the economic bad news build, let more of the leave camp realise that they’ve been betrayed and conned by the Tory party, then when the country is nice and angry, call the referendum. While I was minded to support independence last time (but critical of the SNP), but I guessed it probably won’t pass. This time., I’m not so sure. Like I said, it will boil down to timing.

And Sturgeon shows every sign of playing it cool this time. She’s been in talks with Gibraltar, Northern Ireland and even the London mayor about some sort of plan to keep these regions in the EU, but perhaps still in the UK. I’m not entirely sure how that would work, but by going through the motions she can claim that she at least tried.

_90083274_eu_ref_uk_regions_leave_remain_gra624_sorted

She’s also talking to the EU directly (having already been in talks with the Irish) and will be meeting with the EU president shortly. And some of the murmurs coming out of Brussels suggest she made find a sympathetic ear.

If Scotland can get some sort of deal from the EU, either an option to leave the UK and stay in the EU (unlikely, but worth a shot), or some sort of fast track framework to EU membership (keep in mind, leaving the UK will take a few years anyway) then that could dramatically change the outcome of any 2nd Independence referendum. A narrow chance of a Yes suddenly becomes a near certainty.

Currency is an issue too, as it was a key factor last time. I would hope this time the SNP have the sense not to propose keeping the pound, which is falling in value and probably not a very safe bet. Some sort of “Denmark model” for a future Scottish pound is a possibility. It would be pegged to the euro initially (until an independent Scotland is able to find its own feet), then later allowed to float more freely. This would be a much more sellable option that all the if’s and possibly maybe’s from last time.

In short, by England voting for Brexit an independent Scotland looks a lot more likely.

United Ireland?

And in Northern Ireland too, Sinn Fein are already seeking a border poll on uniting the Island. Of all the regions in the UK, Northern Ireland will suffer the worst from Brexit. They have to compete against a Republic of Ireland where taxes are lower, our GDP is higher (so people have more money to spend), we have better infrastructure, more third level graduates, access to the eurozone and now post-Brexit the single market too. Ask yourself if you were setting up a company on the Island of Ireland, which side of the border would you set up in?

2762995

Its worth keeping in mind that Brexit puts the northern Ireland peace process under threat. The lack of border controls, means any attempt to impose any kind of immigration restrictions on EU citizens in the UK will be impossible. All a Polish guy will need to do is get a cheap Ryanair ticket to Dublin, hop on a bus (there are buses direct from the airport) and he’ll be driven straight to Belfast city centre.

Any sort of tariff’s will result in smuggling, which means more money going towards terrorist groups up in the North (this was sort of the whole point in doing away with border controls, eliminate a key flash point!). Putting border controls at northern Ireland ports would be unprecedented (and probably unworkable given the shear volume of traffic they handle). I know of no other country that has border posts within its own national boundaries. They effects on the Northern Irish trade would be considerable, and inevitably drive more towards voting for a united Island.

So the Good Friday agreement will have to be renegotiated and you can bet what Sinn Fein’s demands will now be. Certainly opinion polls, all taken prior to the EU vote I might add, do suggest no appetite for a united Ireland. Even among Northern Ireland Catholic’s its questionable if you’d get a majority. However, I suspect that given time this will change.

It is often forgotten that the silent majority of Northern Irish people are neither strongly unionist, nor republican. They just want to get along and keep their job. Naturally if this majority now start losing jobs, start see their mortgages and living costs rising, then those poll numbers will start to shift and eventually you will probably find that a majority voting for a united Ireland isn’t that unlikely.

Interestingly there’s been a huge rush for Irish passports since Brexit. Being Irish (which fortunately I am) is a sort of post-Brexit hack. You have all the rights of British citizenship, but are also an EU citizen. The Irish passport office is starting to complain about the shear volume it now needs to process. Potentially 6 million in the UK could apply (that’s nearly 10% of the population!).

Certainly one has to say, as I’ve been saying for years, a UK outside of the EU might well mean an end to the UK. Hence why UKIP should really call themselves the UK destruction party.

Indeed, a complete break up of the UK isn’t that unlikely. I don’t think it will happen soon, but it may well now be a medium term inevitability. One could argue that the UK is a pact based on the understanding that the England will not allow overt English nationalism to do anything that would harm the interests of the non-English minorities within the UK. If you take the view that that contract was just torn up on the 23rd, then the pact that has allowed the UK to exist is broken and its very possible the different parts of the UK will eventually go their separate ways.

I mean, even some in London are talking about independence from the rest of the country now!

Economic fallout

cliff

As noted there’s been turmoil on the markets the last few days. And while there’s been something a a rally (which I’d put down to news that Teresa May seems more likely to success Cameron than Boris!), one can expect this to be temporary. With every drip of bad news the markets will gradually drop that little bit further. Already many companies have put in place a hiring freeze, my uni’s already done so, were expecting an announcement as to whether a spending freeze will also now come in.

Obviously a slow down in the economy will produce a bear market, falling stock prices, rising inflation, wages frozen yet the cost of living going up and falling tax revenue. While Osborne has backtracked for now on a post-referendum emergency budget, its difficult to see how some changes won’t be needed.

Deficit-graph-1979-2015

The trouble is Osborne’s already pulled all of the Austerity levers he can. His options now are to either go after areas where he hasn’t cut substantially which is basically those things that benefit pensioners, raise taxes (fat chance of that!) or pull the one lever he hasn’t tried yet – the compulsory enforced retirement of public sector workers above the age of say, 60 (some countries have gone to this extreme already as part of their austerity). And before the many Brexiters who are in this age group start whining about how he can’t do that, why we have rights….oh you mean those rights in EU law you just voted against?

Half a million civil service are believed to be at risk. Bottom line, if you thought things were bad before they are about to get worse and its generally been those who voted for Brexit who will feel the pinch.

The generational gap

_90081129_eu_ref_uk_regions_leave_remain_gra624_by_age

Which brings us to the issue that there was a large generational gap in voting patterns. The old disproportionately voted for Brexit, while the young voted to stay in. Had the turn out of young people been higher (as it would have been had Cameron held the referendum at another time of year) the result could have been different.

cb59d041-3e42-4f28-81e0-25301d2874ee

Some have likened this to a generational betrayal. As Jack Lennard puts it:

“This is a final middle-fingered salute to the young from the baby boomer generation. Not content with racking up insurmountable debt, not content with destroying any hopes of sustainable property prices or stable career paths, not content with enjoying the benefits of free education and generous pension schemes before burning down the ladder they climbed up, the baby boomers have given one last turd on the doorstep of the younger generation”

Or as Nicholas Barrett puts it:

“the younger generation has lost the right to live and work in 27 other countries. We will never know the full extent of the lost opportunities, friendships, marriages and experiences we will be denied. Freedom of movement was taken away by our parents, uncles, and grandparents in a parting blow to a generation that was already drowning in the debts of our predecessors”

Many of the younger generation are now stuck with the reality that Brexit will make it harder for them to get a job and harder to get on the property ladder (yes house prices might fall, but if you can’t get a mortgage or a job to pay for it, what difference does that make!). Inter-generational betrayal could well lead to anger and eventually inter-generational revenge (a scenario, a BBC “if” episode looked into a few years back, where the younger generation rebelled against the generous deal pensioners are getting and voted in politicians who withdrew many of these benefits).

Hence why if the government were to exercise the options I mentioned earlier (gut pensions, withdraw winter fuel payments and free TV licenses, force older workers into retirement) I don’t think there will be a lot of sympathy from the younger generations. And when pensioners start to struggle because a jump in inflation and a bear market has suddenly made it harder to fund their retirement, I suspect many will say, you made your bed now lie in it.

In short anyone of pension age, or approaching it (and you might be retiring a little earlier now than you thought!) who voted for Brexit has just voted for a more scary and unpredictable financial future.

Anti-Intellectualism and racism

We now live in a post-facts era. In the referendum campaign, many facts and certainties (i.e. that the £350 million a week claim was rubbish, that the pound would fall in value, that the UK’s credit rating would be cut, etc.) were simply ignored by leave voters, in favour of lies, myths and half baked bullshit. It is, as Dana Nuccitelli points out, not really surprising to learn that many Brexit voters also happen to be climate change deniers.

So Brexit does suggest the sort of rising anti-intellectualism that we’ve been seeing in America has now spread to the UK. Given how crucial science is to the UK economy, this is a very worrying development. Quite apart from the fact that UK universities and tech companies are highly dependant on EU research funding (as well as access to the EEA for collaborative research purposes), this could well represent a slide backwards for the UK. One could see the UK falling behind in the science race, which will of course eventually have a devastate economic effect on the country.

11a_fp7-funding-chart

And one of the post-referendum effects seems to be that its now okay to be openly racist in the UK. Many ethnic minorities have complained about an upsurge in racist abuse. Least we forget an MP was killed during the campaign. Unfortunately, I don’t think this will prove to be an isolated incident.

And coincidently, the view from abroad isn’t good. Many in the hostel’s in Norway whom I met from around the world took this referendum as being essentially an opinion poll on how racist Britain is. Given that 52% on a turn out of 70% voted leave, some are interpreting this as saying that 37% of British are racists. Britain’s reputation in the world has taken a severe beating as a result.

It worth watching what some of the US media are making of this, here’s Samatha Bea’s take on Brexit, the Daily Show’s and John Oliver’s.

Will German’s still buying Mini’s or Indians buy Jaguar cars they know to have been built by bigots? Will Beefeater Gin (which was being heavily marketed in Sweden while I was there) still be touting their Britishness when most people associate Britain with racism and bigotry? And will high tech firms set up in a country where their ethnic minority workers face racial harassment on the streets and bureaucratic racism from the state just because they had the nerve to come here and push money into the UK economy?

UK Trumped

Donald Trump, who showed all his keen political skills by arriving in the country at the worst possible time. It was a bit like a fan of KISS showing up to a concert the day after when a Baptist prayer group were renting the hall.

Trump did make some noises that he favoured Brexit and would offer the UK a favourable trade deal. Fat chance of that, Trump after all has flip-flopped his way through this whole campaign.

Trump is very much a protectionist and the idea that he would offer the UK a deal that will put his own business and the jobs of those voting for him at a disadvantage is clearly not going to happen. Once all of this is pointed out to him, he’d likely drag his feet on any deal and demand lots of concession, which (given how desperate the UK will be to get a deal) Westminster will have to concede on. He’ll probably insist on Windsor castle being named the Trump palace and putting a golf course across the tops of the cliff’s of Dover.

The UK’s best hope is that Clinton wins and wins big, with her party gaining a majority in Congress. This will cause her to focus on domestic politics and she’ll be anxious to avoid distractions. So she’ll toss the Brit’s a bone and perhaps given in on a few points. However anyone thinking that 60 million can get a better deal from 300 million Americans, than 450 million Europeans can get is clearly living in cloud cuckoo land.

And the UK will also now have to negotiate trade deals with other countries too, Japan, China, India, etc. In all cases they have the UK over a barrel. As noted, already there’s talk of Hinkley C being cancelled because of Brexit and of major infrastructure projects being put off as it is. Many UK jobs are dependant on foreign firms (increasingly owned by Asia) remaining in the UK. So its inevitable that the UK will not get anything like the deal it currently gets from these countries by being in the EU.

Indeed, its the WTO the UK first needs to square the circle with. Technically the UK will now have to join the WTO and its chief has already warned that’s not going to be straight forward, getting more difficult the further the UK drifts from a EEA style Norway model. Without WTO membership foreign trade becomes increasingly difficult.

A second vote?

AdcockHighRes1_5

All of these things explains why several million have signed a petition calling for a 2nd vote. Already several Tories have suggested that there should be a 2nd referendum on the terms of any exit deal, while the lib dem leader is promising to try and stop Brexit and if that doesn’t work campaign on a platform of taking the UK back into the EU.

All of this raises the possibility of a 2nd EU referendum. Which given how dangerously flawed the last one was, its hardly fair that a racist minority (i.e. 37% of the electorate) should be allowed to cause so much damage to the lives of the remaining majority. However there is a rather significant obstacle to any talk of a 2nd vote. The EU itself.

As far as the EU is concerned out means out, as Junker has made very clear. Any idea of informal talks is being denied and the EU is putting increasing pressure on the UK to invoke article 50 and start the ball rolling on its EU exit. Quite simply put, the EU is fed up with pandering to the Brits, you’ve decided to leave, fine piss off then and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

And keep in mind some eurocrats in Brussels have long favoured some sort of arrangement that demotes the UK to 2nd class status within the EU, so a push towards EEA membership is probably the next least worse option as they see it.

Also by shuffling Britain towards the exit door, the EU knows it makes it more likely that they will get an agreement favourable to them. The UK will have two years to negotiate its exit or risk being chucked out without any agreement, likely provoking a full blown economic crises and mass capital flight (if you thought events on Friday were bad, wait a while). As I pointed out before a future UK PM will come under enormous pressure at this point from the civil service, business, the military and allies to sign any such deal put in front of them by the EU, even if it ultimately leaves the UK worse off that it already is. So Brussels strategy here is sound.

So even in the best case scenario, e.g. the Tory party splits, an early election which a labour and lib dem coalition wins. Along with the pro-EU elements of the Tory party they hold an immediate 2nd referendum and win; I would still expect the EU to insist that the UK need to renegotiate its membership. This means that all of those “reforms” Cameron got will go (they were only there to appease the bigot brigade, which clearly didn’t work, so no point in keeping them) as will likely things like the British rebate. Of course if they are feeling particularly uncharitable they may insist the UK must now accept entry to the EU under the same terms and conditions of a new EU member state (i.e. all of the UK’s opt outs will go, we have to commit to joining the euro, etc.).

In short the UK just said no to the best deal we were ever going to get from Brussels. Any attempt to dither about leaving or re-enter the EU will mean accepting an agreement which leaves the UK worse off than it was before. There is basically no going back from this. If your a regret full leave voter, then your a moron and and idiot, do me a favour and stay away from ballot boxes.

Ignore it?

Another option is that parliament simply ignores the referendum. In theory its not legally binding, both houses (and arguably the Northern Ireland, Welsh and Scottish assemblies) have to approve it and its probable at least one of those will say no (actually all would vote no if given a free vote). In short, Parliament could treat this referendum as if someone just chucked a dead cat in their yard, get a shovel and throw it back over the fence.

However, I don’t think that’s a realistic option politically, nor do I think the EU, nor the markets would except this without some form of 2nd referendum or an early election.

The positives?

Which brings me to at least the one set of positives we can salvage from all of this. Brexit marks probably the end to all of the right’s lies and myths. Like a serial killer they’ve finally managed to act out their twisted fantasy and are now stuck with the consequences of that.

And the consequences are the buck stops here. Pretty much everything bad that happens over the next few years will be blamed (rightly or wrongly) on Brexit. Can’t get a job, or you’ve just lost the one you had, guess who’s fault that is? Not foreigners, not migrants or the EU, but the people like you who voted for Brexit! Your company can’t export overseas anymore because of a loss of free trade deals with the China and the US, guess whose to blame for that one? Your benefits cheque just got cut and you’re in dire financial straits, well you shouldn’t have voted leave then! You’re a pensioner and now can’t afford to heat your home or buy food anymore, well guess whose fault that is? Going abroad is now a pain in the ass because of all the passport controls and red tape, well I suppose you shouldn’t have voted for Brexit should you!

In essence Brexit amounts to the Bigot brigade breaking cover. And out in the open they are now exposed to certain day to day realities in a way they’ve previously managed to avoid. Because unfortunately reality has something of a pro-liberal and pro-progressive bias.

Advertisements

The political obituary of David Cameron

ADAMS20160530_1-large_trans++Q7R4ElStP52q-sQnP7Psl5NrDu2Hlc_JSfU0EB8msKM

Given that I’ll be on holiday when the referendum result is declared. And given that the likely result is going to be a close stay or leave, meaning Cameron may well  be facing a leadership challenge in either event. So he might be gone by the end of the month. So I thought it would be worthwhile writing Cameron’s political obituary in advance.

Now I expect his biographers will try to play up the positives…………..I’m trying to think of something……..plus he held three referendum’s allowing the big democratic questions of the day to be tackled. Well actually no!

Yes there have been 3 referendum’s in the 6 years of Cameron’s reign but in all three he campaigned against them. While we do hold a lot more referendum’s in Ireland or the rest of Europe, its virtually unheard of for a Prime Minster to put a question before the people and then campaign against it. Most PM’s would sooner pull out their own teeth than do that.

Quite apart from the obvious contradiction of the people voting for you’re policies, and then you turn around and tell them they’re silly and those ideas are just madness. There is also the fact that a PM who loses such a referendum will almost certainly have to resign shortly thereafter. Hence, most PM’s in other countries would sooner fight an election or an internal leadership challenge than put up with that.

The fact is Cameron was forced into these referendums on all three occasions by pressure from others. One has to therefore conclude he is a weak leader.

Let us contrast his position with that of past PM’s. Let us imagine for example, if back in the Thatcher era, newspapers printed a story of how several backbench MP’s were planning to ambush the PM on Europe. What would have happened? I’m guessing the freshly removed balls of said MP’s would be delivered to said newspaper’s HQ the following morning. Thatcher (who was far more eurosceptic than Cameron) simply won’t tolerate that sort of descent.

Even John Major was made of tougher stuff. When his MP’s tried to rebel over Europe he actually resigned, forcing a leadership battle and left them with the stark choice of “put up or shut up”. The fact is that Cameron is probably one of the weakest and most insecure leaders the UK has had in years.

And of course this referendum and its all to predictable outcome is yet another sign of what we must associate with Cameron – incompetence. As I discussed before, this referendum was a bad idea from the start. Cameron should instead have grown a pair and stood up to his MP’s.

Even the timing of this referendum is questionable. Why is he holding it in June when most of the young people are on holiday and students aren’t at their term time addresses? And he is aware that there’s this little thing called a football tournament on at the same time? (problem with toff’s is they’re all rugby fans!) The SNP held their referendum in September in order to help maximise turnout. And they also made sure to make it as mutually inclusive as possible (i.e. not excluding millions of British expats and EU citizens), as the SNP were gambling that a large turn out increased their chances.

Instead, Cameron has stacked the deck in favour of Brexit, by ensuring millions who would be expected to vote stay won’t get the chance. Now he’s panicking and the stay camp are running around with their hair on fire, trying to arrange last minute voter registration drives.

And the Scottish referendum could have gone badly for the Tories as well. The SNP set a cunning trap for the Cameron. They knew the majority wanted more devolved powers, not independence, but also knew putting that on the ballot paper would dilute the vote for independence. So they left it up to Cameron , who promptly put his foot in it, forcing a last minute intervention by Gordon Brown (of all people) to rescue the situation.

And like I said, this is typical of government under Cameron. In the first few weeks of their reign, there was talk of a possible strike by petrol tanker drivers. Rather than staying out of it and downplaying media scaremongering, instead some of his MP’s went out and tried to stir things up, salivating that this would be their “Thatcher moment” show down with the unions. One MP suggested that people should have a few Jerry cans stashed away in the garage, ignoring the fact that most people don’t have garages, don’t have Jerry cans and Health & Safety would have concerns about the storing of 50+ litres of fuel in a domestic property. In essence they caused panic buying, even though the strike never happened as management and the unions were able to reach an agreement.

Then there was the crisis at passport control, where Osborne cut the budget of the UKBA, Cameron caved into pressure from the xenophobics who wanted every passport of everyone coming in checked, and suddenly there were massive queues without enough staff. Or they started restricting student visas, then noticed a drop off in foreign students and asked the uni’s what the problem was (let’s see, you!). Or the debacle of hiring G4S to handle security at the Olympics, advising them to skip on wages, ignored warnings against this, only for the army to have to be drafted in at the last minute.

Or there was the time Cameron wrote to his local council complaining about cuts to local public services. They wrote back saying they’d love to oblige but some dickhead in London kept cutting their budget. Quite simply put, the Cameron government seems to have a routine whereby, the will propose some policy, ignore all the expert advice against it, implement it anyway, then go running around in a panic when it blows up in their faces. I can only assume that as a wealthy toff, he and his millionaire cabinet are used to simply giving an instruction to an underling who skulks away and carries it out, without question.

Which brings us to the next phrase we’d associate with Cameron, out of touch. He is clearly a person who does not live in the same world as the rest of Britain. Hence why he saw nothing wrong with putting a tax on pasties and pork pies. He then had to think very hard of the last time he’d had one (likely served on a silver tray which he ate with a knife and fork). He had to pretend to support Aston Villa (or was it West Ham? I can’t remember, nor can he!). He and Osborne have had to spend so long going around on site visits to factories, we’re left wondering if hi-vis vest and hard hat is now the expected attire for a PM.

I think it was the first question from Jeremy Paxman to Cameron, prior to the election that epitomised his government. He was asked if he knew how many food banks were in the country and how many their were before he came to power. One quickly got the impression this simply didn’t register. He does not care, he and the Chipping Norton/Bullingdon boy set he mingles with are so far removed from such things as food banks you’d be as well off asking him about tribes in the Amazon.

Again, yes we’ve had posh Prime Minsters before, but you have to say its been a long time since somebody has come to power who is so out of touch, so divorced from the ordinary working people of the country.

And it is his efforts to serve the needs of his social class that brings us to the last word we must associate with Cameron – dodgy. There is a certain hypocrisy to him calling Nigerians “very corrupt when his own father was fiddling with bearer bonds in offshore bank accounts. And contrary to his claims about cracking down on tax avoidance, he has intervened to limit or block legislation that would crack down on tax havens.

Cameron and Osborne’s big idea has been to gut the public services, while giving tax cuts to the wealthy. Now his supporters would say, but wait we’ve only give a one cut in the form of the scrapping of the 50p tax rate. Yes, but flying under the radar are a long list of further stealth tax cuts and stealthy tax rises that benefit the better off. For example, they “streamlined” car tax, the end result has been that a Porsche or Jag is now in the same tax band as a Prius or transit van. His version of “help to buy” is essentially a mechanism to pump up the value of landlord’s property portfolios.

And speaking of property, there’s the fact he’s been claiming a mortgage on his Oxford home on public expenses. Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t he live in 10 Downing street? Cos if not I know a few people looking for a place to rent! Or does he only use Downing Street to entertain wealthy donors?

So all in all we have to say, if Cameron does go on the 24th of June, good riddance to dodgy Dave a incompetent, out of touch and weak Prime Minster.

Could Brexit vote lead to a technocratic take over?

oth_ymstill2

Many of those tempted to vote leave in a few weeks time are doing so out of frustration. Some seem determined to crash the system, just so they can have the satisfaction of then watching it burn. Well actually there is a strong risk of the opposite happening. That of the White hall bureaucrats stepping in and taking over to limit the damage.

Ultimately the primary goal of government civil servants, as they see it, is to ensure the continuity of the state, even if it means occasionally acting against the apparent will of the people. If that sounds undemocratic, they would point out that if the state collapses (well for starters they’re all out of a job!) things tend to get very messy. The nation’s currency become worthless and with much of any nations banking debt being sovereign debt (which can’t be serviced without a government), bad loans bring down the banks, cash machines stop issuing money, loans get called in, police, firemen, doctors and the army stop getting their pay checks and old people find their pension stopped. In short chaos, quite possibly followed by a military coup. So they would argue that a “technocratic coup” is a sort of least worse option.

We have a good example of just such a bureaucratic takeover of a country from recent events in Greece. About a year ago the Greek PM held a referendum that rejected the EU bailout terms, even thought they had been warned that such a vote would likely lead to Grexit. A few weeks later, Tsipras accepted terms that were even worse than the ones rejected in the referendum and his wayward minister for finance Yanis Varoufakis had gone.

One can assume that what happened between these two events (and there’s a lesson here for Brexit supporters), was that the civil servants sat Tsipras down and explained to him the cold hard facts of life. If he followed through with what he was proposing he’d be resetting the Greek economy back to zero. Everybody would lose everything and while yes things might emerge brighter on the other side at some distant future date, in the short term things in Greece would get a heck of a lot worse. Inevitably, he caved in and signed up to the new bailout terms.

And to be clear this wasn’t the EU overriding Greek democracy, it was likely the country’s own civil service stepping in. At this point the EU seem to want Greece to leave, as it would bring closure to the whole affair (the German foreign minster said as much at the time) and let them move on. And in Italy too, the mess left behind by Berlusconi let to a technocratic takeover of the Italian government.

So what is likely to happen in the case of Brexit? Well, its likely after the chaos of resignations and recriminations, whoever is in charge will find themselves put under enormous pressure by the civil service to sign up to a deal with the EU that will make the UK an EU member in all but name.

This will give the country access to the common market, but under similar terms to Norway and Switzerland. i.e. all of those EU laws the Brexit brigade are complaining about will remain in place (perhaps a few laws which guarantee workers rights might go thought), its just the UK will lose its right to veto or even be consulted on future laws and we’ll be paying the EU to enforce these laws (Norway pays about 82% per capita of what the UK currently pays for being an EU member).

But we’ll get control of the border back?no! The points system proposed by the Leave camp won’t work, European countries would respond in kind and any drop in foreigners coming in would be quickly outweighed by the millions of British forced to move back to the UK. Such a policy would likely lead to crops rotting in the fields, labour shortages as well as making it all but impossible for UK firms to trade with Europe. Inevitably some will relocate overseas. Keep in mind studies have shown that for every 1% increase in migration the UK economy benefits to the tune of 6-7%.

The best case scenario (for Brexiters), is there would be a bit more paper work (akin to how Australia treats New Zealanders for example, although keep in mind this would apply too to British people trying to move to Europe) and it would be easier to restrict migrant benefits. But this would be outweighed by the the fact that asylum seekers would find it easier to get into the country. Many Romanian or Hungarian gypsies, Jews or gays, who face harassment from neo-nazi groups, currently they find it difficult to claim asylum in the UK as they are coming from a fellow EU country. Britain leaves, and suddenly its not that easy to turn them around. We’d have to let them in, give them a council house and benefits while their asylum claim is looked into.

And keep in mind that our future UK PM will be doing all of this against a back drop of generally negative economic news and falling tax revenue. A downgrade of the UK’s credit rating, a few points rise of mortgages and perhaps a slow down in the issuing of new mortgages are all also likely.

Our PM will also be coming under pressure from MP’s, noting that pro-remain MP’s have a massive cross party majority and already there is talk of an emergency post-referendum bill to force the UK to remain part of the common market. And the regions, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland (who’ll be wanting another Inde-ref) will be threatening rebellion. No doubt the generals will also stop by to point out how vital good links with the EU are to the UK’s defence, as will many business chiefs.

So given such enormous pressure, the balance of probability is that, much like Greece, post a leave vote, the UK will (after some economic chaos and a recession) sign up to a deal with the EU that will leave the country even worse off and even more under the control of Brussels and less able to turn around asylum seekers. As I predicted sometime ago, Brexiters will have succeeded in getting the complete opposite of what they wanted.

Vote Brexit for Scottish Independence?

_74487894_saltireeu_gettytwo

Some Scottish nationalists are apparently backing Brexit, on the assumption that a vote to leave will trigger another inde-ref. Polls suggest that there’s a good chance this will result in a successful vote for independence.

The SNP case for independence post-Brexit is that it wouldn’t be fair for Scotland to be dragged kicking and screaming out of the EU by England. Scotland with a much heavier dependence on tourism, farming and high value exports to the continent will be more adversely effected by Brexit. That the English would sabotage the Scottish economy, just because they’re racist against Poles would leave anyone to question the sanity of remaining within the UK. Brexit would also make it easier for an independent Scotland to join the EU, as it could potentially steal the UK’s seat at the table.

However, for that pitch to remain valid, Scotland would have to vote by a significant majority to stay in the EU. A narrow Scottish vote to stay in, or worse a vote to leave along with England, and the case for a 2nd inde-ref evaporates. Without a strong Scottish vote for staying in the EU, any attempt at a 2nd independence referendum will stink of political opportunism. Now while the SNP may well hold such a vote anyway (they’ll kind of have the Tories over a barrel), its less likely they’ll win in that scenario.

Keep in mind a large chuck of the SNP’s case for independence assume Scotland being (or becoming) a member of the EU. And a fast track to EU membership would require the EU being assured that the are Scot’s generally pro-EU and not going to start whinging about Polish or the shapes of banana’s.

In short if you are a supporter of Scottish independence you need to accept that it is going to be a lot harder (if not impossible) to achieve that without Scotland being in the EU, or a firm majority of Scot’s supporting EU membership.

Equally opponents of Scottish independence need to understand, that depending on the breaks, by voting to leave the EU you may also be triggering a 2nd inde-ref. In short neither side really wants to open the pandora’s box of an EU exit.

Hire Brit’s first?

68312a6e5df3945fc22ac808fb0a7b55

Tim the Fox was fired from his job of guarding the hen house after repeatedly falling asleep on the job.

One example of the delusions you’ll get from the UKIP mob is why don’t firms hire British people first? If anything this merely shows how out of touch they are with modern the modern work place.

As anyone who works in HR will tell you the reality is that they are usually swamped with CV’s for any job, the vast majority of whom are people from the local job’s centre who have been told to apply for any job that comes up, even if they’ve got nothing like the qualifications for that job. Or you get CV’s off people who are sufficiently desperate that they think that a year’s experience at B & Q would qualify them for the post of professor of Engineering.

466b51d1a423aa7d5ff4f4d36b063f1e

HR have to wade through this mass of CV’s to pick out the genuine candidates. Increasingly some resort to using software to do it. Even then its not a simple case of picking the candidate who is the best match. Often you can end up with several good candidates, some may even exceed the requirements, but will presumably demand a higher wage (so you’ll be getting better than you wanted, but paying the maximum advertised salary). Others might just meet the minimum requirements, but will often be more flexible (i.e. will take a lower salary and can start straight away). Its difficult enough for bosses to weight up these dilemma’s as it is without complicating matters further.

Furthermore, I would question the central premise that foreigners find it easier to get a job than British. Lets face it most jobs are about people skills and local knowledge. If I’m recruiting someone to be my head of sales in the West Midlands, I’ll likely go for someone with prior experience in sales in the region. A Polish or Indian candidate fresh off the boat is going to have to be pretty damn good for me to hire him over a British person.

And of course, its not what you know, but who you know that often swings it. Even in academia, I’d say at least half the jobs advertised, we’d have a candidate in mind (doesn’t mean they’ll get it, but the odds are very much in their favour!). Similarly, if I’m faced with a choice between some well qualified but random stranger from abroad and an employee of a rival firm, whom I not only know, but I’m also on first names basis with one of his referees, who do you think gets hired?

Foreigners have two advantages over British, they are a little more flexible over wages (at least until they start paying a mortgage and realise how expensive it is to live in this country!) and are more willing to relocate for the sake of work. Its a sad fact that UKIP support is strongest in places with high unemployment and not many foreigners, as they’ve moved away to where the work is, its the locals who’ve stayed behind who are the ones whining about foreigners taking their jobs.

But overall, I’d argue these two advantages are cancelled out by the hurdles a foreign migrant faces. And there’s a simple way to counter this – put up the minimum wage to encourage British unemployed to take jobs and legally enforce the payment of relocation allowances (perhaps part subsidised by the government), to allow people to relocate for the sake of work.

In all likelihood, this “hire British first” routine would simply become a box ticking exercise. e.g. They line up 5 British candidates in the morning, one of them a candidate who they genuinely want to talk to, the other 4, no hoper’s from the jobs centre. Interview them all, conclude that they aren’t sure any are suitable, then interview 3 foreigners after lunch (even if they still give the job to the Brit they saw in the morning).

Already such box ticking exercises exist for minorities or anyone with a disability. Put that on your supposedly secret “diversity monitoring” section of the application form and you can all but be guaranteed to be called for interview (not that they’ll necessarily pay you or anything!), even thought the employer has no plans to hire you, just so HR can claim they are hitting their targets for disability and inclusion.

And already some recent visa changes are causing all sorts of havoc, as they oblige firms to try and hire a British or EU citizen first, or advertise for a certain period and then interview a certain number of candidates. And generally its led to positions being left unfilled, simply because employers can’t find anyone suitable in the UK to do the job. Often they are forced to either hire temp workers and string them along on short contracts or repeatedly re-advertise the job until the find a suitable candidate.

Obviously extending this to EU citizens, as suggested by Brexiters, would end up making it even harder for private industry to recruit and they will simply leave or move the job overseas. After all in a globalised economy its not foreigners coming over here and stealing your job you need to fear but foreigners staying at home and your job moving.

EU Referendum update – Argumentum ex culo

650

The Tory civil war referendum debate continues, with the Leave camp resurrecting old arguments and making outlandish promises. The Remain camp have accused them of promising a “make-believe land of milk and honey”.

e.g. they want a points system for migrants. As I pointed out before, while yes Australia and Canada apply a points system for UK migrants, they don’t apply those rules to visitors from their neighbours in the US or New Zealand, because that would just be silly and likely lead to their neighbours responding in kind. Already the Dutch government have pointed out that they would respond with like for like rules on British citizens.

Meaning British ex-pats in Europe would suddenly have to get a work visa. And its worth noting that if they start streaming back into the country, that’s going to push up net migration figures. Already 83,000 Brits return over those who immigrate, so a doubling of that figure would likely wipe out any reduction (and there’s no reason to suggest it will fall, if the economic trends driving it still apply). In short, unless you turn the country into North Korea, there is no way to cut net inward migration.

eb937e91

British citizens represent the largest source of inward migration (demographic changes not included). The number of EU migrants entering is now falling

In other news they promised to cut fuel duty and VAT on energy bill. Yes, and what about this thing called “climate change” ? (you might want to google that sometime). Also, cutting taxes means that they’d have to cut back on public spending….or raise income tax. And he likely economic impact is that overall taxes would go up.

Realising that young people might swing this election, they’ve been promising that leaving the EU would make it easier to get a flat. Well no because A) like I said earlier, leaving would not reduce inward migration. B) the main population driver is still demographic changes (i.e. people living longer) and C) the main purchasers of flats are investors and buy to let landlords. Indeed, when I bought my flat last year I was told (by the seller) that I had been bidding against another first time buyer and several buy-to-let landlords, no mention of any migrants.

All told, the leave camp have promised some £110 billion of unfunded extra spending with no clue as to where the money is going to come from…presumably yet another example Argumentum ex culo. The BBC’s “reality check is already overloaded with the level of BS being churned out, mostly by the vote Boris vote leave camp.

Unfortunately, there are enough stupid people in the country who actually might believe this BS, and opinion polls point to either a tight stay vote or a narrow leave. In both cases, likely the worst case scenario.

Let’s put in this way, there was an article in the Beeb the other day about in store music and which tunes they play and why. I think all shops should be made to play Beethoven – 7th Symphony – 2nd movement for the rest of the month, maybe it will get the message across!

Why we need the EU

_72969302_europarlrexfeatlifeofbrian

Brexit Campaigners on the way to a rally…actually a good monty pythonesque video here, what has the EU ever done for us?

One view I often hear from Euro skeptics is how we don’t need to be lectured to by the EU nanny. That if Europe comes up with something that’s a good idea (regulations on vehicle safety, environmental protection, etc.), we can opt to implement it or maybe not. Why do we need Brussels to tell us these things, why not let us decide? This video blog is a good example of this sort of view. A similar argument is that won’t lose EU grant money, because we pay billions to be a member of the EU anyway (not quite true that one as I discussed in a prior post). This is perhaps a very naïve view of politics and ignores certain realities. And thus it is worth spending some time debunking it.

For starters, the above is a bit of a contrarian argument, you could equally use it to argue in favour of anything, or even use it to argue in favour of getting rid of government altogether. After all think about it, since the UK joined the EU while we’ve paid billions to them to “make up laws” (you know, like ones banning children from working in factories or making sure car are safer). But we’ve equally given trillions to the UK government to do the same. Why do we need the government telling us what to do? I know not to steal or speed, I recycle. Perhaps we should just get rid of government altogether and if we see someone else setting some good life rules to live by, then we are free to copy them if we want. What could possibly go wrong (hmmm….cos there’d be anarchy!).

The fact is that we don’t live in a perfect world, there’s a certain proportion of the population who have to be told to do the right thing and our politicians aren’t perfect (shock horror!). Sometimes people need a bit of a nudge. Take smoking bans in pubs. The evidence that passive smoke is harmful has been around for sometime, yet about ten years ago, you went to a pub and you’d come home smelling like you’d rolled around in an ashtray. And spare a thought for the people who worked in pubs, who had to stand around having smoke blown in their faces all night. In any other industry it would be quickly deemed unacceptable to expose workers to known carcinogenic fumes as part of their job.

140505123311-ireland-smoking-ban-01-horizontal-large-gallery

Now while the EU never banned smoking in pubs (contrary to what Farage might have you believe) they did bring in legislation that obliged member states to protect workers health. This eventually led to smoking bans in many EU states. It hadn’t happened before because governments were reluctant to take on the powerful lobby groups working for publicans and big tobacco. In Ireland for example the idea of either a smoking ban or some sort of segregation within pubs was talked about for years. But every time it was quickly killed off by lobbyists. It is difficult to envisage that such legislation would have been enacted without the EU, even though a majority supported it, simply because politicians were too scared of a very vocal (and well funded) minority.

And European legislation has also improved safety in many jobs, as I discussed in a previous post. In Ireland when I was a lad (which wasn’t that long ago), work place accidents were sufficiently common that you could expect to attend a few funerals every year of some young fellow who had been killed on a building site. Again, governments often failed to act because of pressure from lobbyists. EU legislation gave a sufficient nudge to governments and this has greatly improved work place safety across the EU. This also avoided a “race to the bottom whereby transnational corporations pair one government off against the other in an effort to get them to compete to see who can curb environmental protection or workers pay and rights the most.

Politicians can face pressure not just from corporate lobbyists, but also other special interests. Take the issue of gay marriage. Not only was gay marriage not legal in Ireland (until recently) but until 1993 it was illegal in Ireland to even be gay. As the result of the recent referendum on gay marriage should demonstrate, this was not necessarily a law the majority of the population agreed with. But politicians had dodged the issue for quite sometime, as they were afraid of any criticism from the catholic church, which could cost them votes. The law was only changed because the government realised that this would put it at odds with changes to human rights legislation the EU was then contemplating and they wanted to avoid the embarrassment of being forced into doing it (not least because the law in question was a 1861 act of Parliament….meaning the British Parliament, yes they sat on their hands and let an English law stand for 70 years after independence!).

And some issues are simply too big for any one government to tackle. Climate change is one example. The atmosphere is a global commons and there is little point in one country cutting emissions if the other major powers do not. It is difficult to envisage any progress having been made on this issue, if it weren’t for the EU. And by leading by example, the EU has gradually managed to persuade the American, Russian and Chinese governments to begin to take action. And its no surprise to learn that many leading members of the Brexit camp are also climate change deniers.

CbrEL1RW0AA8lkx

Another example is tax and tax avoidance. For many decades the world’s wealthy have been able to stash their money in offshore tax havens. It was pressure from the EU that has helped wear down many tax havens into signing data sharing agreements that has helped to tackle this. Even Switzerland signed onto another such deal last year (this is the latest in a long line of such deals between the Swiss and the EU). While one can understand Switzerland’s desire to not get cut out of the world’s largest collective economy, its difficult to believe they would have been as open to similar pressure from the UK.

Indeed, its worth contrasting the consequences of finding oneself on the wrong end of the tax authorities in the UK and the US (another large collection of states, not unlike the EU). In the UK you get a series of strongly worded letter from the Inland Revenue asking you to pay, which you will probably ignore (if you’re rich enough), until after a few years they agree to drop the matter on condition you pay half of it. By contrast, in the US, cheat on your taxes and a guy with a badge and gun shows up at your door, tosses you over the bonnet of your merc and hauls your butt in. Indeed, while the response from Cameron is too make excuses regarding the Panama papers, the response of the Americans has been to launch a criminal investigation (and woe to anyone who gets swept up in this dragnet).

This is of course because the US has, by and large, delegated tax collecting authority to the federal government. And ultimately that federal government has a lot more authority and reach than any individual state. While one could accuse the US of often being slow to act on some issues (often there’s various white millionaires they should be arresting, who they don’t….largely because they are a country run by white millionaires!). But it is a generally accepted fact that if you cross the line with the US government, the Fed’s will come after you and there ain’t nowhere on this earth you can hide from them and there’s nobody who is too big for them not to be able to take down (as I suspect Sepp Blatter will be contemplating from his federal prison cell in a few years time!).

artin-shkreli-eace03e3-e554-4251-863e-96753844ff0c

Getting on the wrong side of the Fed’s is not a good idea!

Now while the EU perhaps lacks the teeth of the US federal government (i.e. the guys with a badge and a gun), that’s not to say corporations or the rich and powerful don’t take it seriously. Cross the EU and you run the risk of being locked out of the world’s largest collective economy. There are few who can, or are willing to take that sort of risk. Take for example the recent changes to mobile phone roaming charges. Had the UK or Ireland asked mobile phone companies to lower their rates, they’d have been laughed out of the room. But the EU has managed to get these charges reduced.

I’m not suggesting the EU is a perfect institution. It needs reform, but a lot of the reform would require more European integration and the major obstacle to that are the very eurosceptics who are complaining about the EU. The EU also has perhaps a bit of an image problem. As noted, they often don’t get credit for the positive things they do, but quickly get the blame anytime things go wrong, as national politicians seek to deflect blame from themselves. I recall, an American commenting, upon seeing the EU constitution, that it looked like a telephone directory and read like an insurance policy. He suggested they have another go with a quill pen, some goatskin and start it off with some prose…. such as “we the people”. Of course, one of the complaints about the US constitution is that its far too vague (the 2nd amendment being an excellent example).

And it is interesting to see how the traditional critics of the EU, the hard left, have in this referendum allied with the likes of Osborne and centre right neo-liberals. Why? Because both sides understand that leaving the EU would be throwing the baby out with the bath water. There is only one group throughout Europe who has remained consistently opposed to the EU – Fascists. There reasons are all too obvious, they want to be able to discriminate against one group or another….plus they are all allies of Putin.

And as for leaving the EU saving the UK money, well this assumes there will be no impact on trade or tax revenue, which does seem unlikely. It also ignores that certain key industry’s in the UK get a disproportionate level of funding from the EU. University’s and research institutes in the UK for example get a lot more than others on a per capita basis. UK farmers also get quite a lot of money from the EU, which is often vital to support certain types of farming (notably traditional hill farming).

150306_Open_Europe_Brexit_table

Would the UK government really pick up the tab for these costs (likely putting up taxes or cutting services somewhere else) if the UK left? Probably not. One has to question whether they would be willing to take on such costs given that it would mean cutting back in other areas (e.g. pensions, healthcare, etc.). Consequently it is expected that if the UK does leave the EU, universities will be decimated, many small high-tech start ups will leave and certain types of farming (notably traditional hill farming) will stop altogether.

In short, the whole logic of the EU is that the sum of the parts are greater than the whole.