Boris nukes



A few weeks back Boris Johnson made reference to how the UK would shortly be building mini fusion reactors, courtesy of a generous grant of UK government funding (and thus brexit wasn’t going to be the disaster to UK science everyone is predicting). Of course, the actual nuclear scientists were quick to point out that this is about as accurate as pretty much any other Boris Johnson statement. Such as his claim there will be no border checks between Ireland and the UK post-brexit (which would result in the UK facing sanctions from the WTO, the EU, and the US, plus he’d be unable to prevent counterfeit goods or smugglers flooding the UK market and why would anyone give the UK a trade deal if you can smuggle stuff across the UK border via NI tariff free?).

In truth the UK leaving the EU also means the…

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Another election nobody wants

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Just before the EU referendum result in 2016 it looked likely we’d having an election in Ireland, as there was only a minority government who couldn’t really survive a no confidence vote. That didn’t happen and still hasn’t because it was considered unwise to have an election with brexit going on in the UK (hence the opposition agreed not to table any no confidence motions). Well the UK’s about to have its second brexit election (potentially leading to its 4th brexit PM) at what has to been the most inconvenient time in UK history. And, as I will explain later in this article, a third brexit election is a distinct possibility (and possibly a referendum too).

The cult of the one true brexit v’s the cult of the one true Corbyn v’s the cult of the one true Farage

And as campaigning kicks off we have the absurdity of three parties who all claim to represent “the people” against an out of touch elite (despite the fact that all three party leaders were privately educated themselves!). Certainly the fact that the Tories are ahead in the polls does suggest they are likely to win. However, they’ve been campaigning for the last three months while the rest of the parties haven’t. Now the PM’s brexit deal is coming under scrutiny and, as its an awful deal, both the brextremists and the remainers are finding issues with it (hence why Trump warned it would make a US trade deal difficult). And there’s that report into Russian hacking which the PM is refusing to release (I wonder why!). This could cause the Tories to lose votes to both sides.

And the Tory promises of loads of dosh for everything is starting to be walked back. We’ve gone from 40 new hospitals to a handful that will get refurbished (i.e. a lick of paint)…..maybe. More importantly there is the issue of how does the government propose to pay for all of this. The global economy is slowing, the bond market is becoming increasingly volatile and brexit will inevitably lead to a further slow down in the economy and yet further falls in tax receipts.

Bottom line, either the Tories have to be prepared for another round of austerity, one that would make Osborne look like Santa Claus, or they have to prepared to raise taxes. I think you can guess which of the two they’ll chose to do. Yes some Turkey’s will literally vote for Christmas in a few weeks time, but it doesn’t take that many voters in a few marginal seats to either vote a different way (or just stay at home because its snowing outside) to cost the Tories the election.

It is possible the labour will go up in the polls now the campaign has started. This is after all what happened last time. But remember the issue last time was that Corbyn (or he who must be obeyed as he told his MP’s this week) was up against Teresa May, aka the yellow submarine, who spent the entire campaign either running away from people or being honest about Tory policies (which is kind of like an Asbestos salesman being honest about the health effects of his merchandise). In short labour were faced with an open goal and they still lost. And Boris is seen as a much more capable campaigner than May (by which I mean he’s better at lying to people).

And labour’s opaque brexit position doesn’t help. Their brexit policy is basically to shrug their shoulders and say fu*ked if we know! Its the May/Boris deal (with a few minor tweaks) or no deal or no brexit. And given their unwillingness to either try and force through the deal (with amendments) against the PM’s wishes, the fact that 19 labour MP’s rebelled and supported a deal without punishment (a deal that will gut workers rights) and the fact labour resisted attempts by the lib dems to attach a 2nd referendum, all make it difficult for voters to judge where they stand not just on brexit but anything for that matter.

Foot in mouth disease

In essence we could be seeing a repeat of Micheal Foot and the disastrous labour campaign of 1983 (which saw a landslide victory for the Tories and Maggie Thatcher, setting labour up to lose 3 elections in a row). The only difference is that support for Corbyn is already lower than it was for Micheal Foot at the peak of his unpopularity. He is literally one of the most unpopular politicians in UK history….and labour supporters say they actually want an election! LOL!

Part of the problem here is that Corbyn is playing the long game. He doesn’t want to be PM and is quite happy to lose the election as his goals are both to make sure brexit happens (and a labour victory would prevent that) and to drag labour further to the left. He might not be electable but there are several on the hard left in the party who could be.

The thing is, this was also Micheal Foot’s plan. He was happy to inflict a decade of Thatcher on the UK in return for moving labour more to the left. But of course the opposite happened. In the wake of his defeat Labour drifted further and further to the right until they ended up with Tony Blair (“the best conservative PM in UK history” as one Tory voter once called him with no hint of irony). So the odds are history might well repeat itself.

The position of the brexit party will be critical. If they decide to campaign in certain labour marginals but not Tory marginals, then that benefits the Tories. If they go after every seat (and given that Boris has a reputation for betraying his allies, Farage would be a fool to trust him) that benefits labour. But keep in mind that if the brexit party gets enough support, they might hoover up seats from both parties. And both labour and the Tories are looking at near total wipe out in Scotland (its likely they’ll both be reduced to one seat each….both of whom are held by disloyal rebels as regards their respective party leaders).


This could lead to a result where there is truly a hung parliament. That is too say, no combination of labour plus pro-remain parties or the Tories plus pro-brexit parties (assuming any of them are stupid enough to go into coalition with Boris) can form a government. So how is this election going to improve things? 

Election 2020?

Hence why I’d argue that this election might be a prelude to a future election in late 2020 or early 2021.

If say the Tories lose enough seats to allow labour, the lib dems and possibly the SNP to go into coalition, its a government that might not last very long. The price the smaller parties will extract for their support is likely to be Corbyn retiring. Now he’s said he was going to step down in the spring. And if labour loses lots of seats he might be pushed out anyway (not that he’ll mind, remember his goal is to make sure someone younger and more electable on the left becomes leader, the election he truly cares about is the next labour leadership election). Meaning someone else in labour becomes PM (with perhaps Corbyn in a brief caretaker role). So this would probably satisfy the other parties into supporting labour on the condition of a 2nd referendum (which would pretty much take up all of his time in office). That they should be able to push through, as well as perhaps some electoral reforms. But that’s about it.

On almost every other issue their will be disagreement. The lib dems aren’t going to support his policy of nationalisation. And while the SNP might do so, they’d likely insist that those assets should be owned by Scotland (and in fairness this would be within the spirit of devolution), something labour could never agree too. Free uni education, scrapping universal credit and ending NHS austerity is something all parties could support, but how to pay for it and the pace of the changes would be the sticking point.

Labour might be happy to spend like a sailor on shore leave but the other parties won’t be. As I’ve mentioned before the SNP have pushed up taxes in Scotland without causing too much fuss, but their experience shows such tax increases need to be sold to the public in advance and introduced gradually. A populist led labour will be in too much of a rush to do this properly. And thus they will lose many votes in parliament (either due to labour rebels or their coalition partners not supporting these policies). And of course if labour has a new leader/PM they’ll probably be keen to have their own mandate (not least because the other obstacle will be the house of lords which will block many of labour’s more extreme policies, even if they can get the lib dems & SNP to support them in the commons). So an early election is very likely, probably in 2020 or 2021 not long after a 2nd referendum.

And if the Tories win the upcoming election, the same is also likely to be true. The problem for Boris is that not only does he have to win an election, he has to win by a large margin while also seeing off the brexit party (he can afford to let them drain votes away from labour and get the odd seat, but not so much that they become a major force in UK politics).

The only thing uniting the Tories right now is fear of Corbyn and some vague commitment to brexit. Once he’s gone away and brexit happens (in some way or form), open warfare within the party will resume. The ERG will want chances to the withdrawal agreement or will try to sabotage the trade negotiations with the EU . The remainers will try to push for a softer brexit. And these factions will turn every vote on every issue into a tit for tat struggle.

For example, as you may know the Tories want to privatise the NHS and sell it to the US healthcare companies. However, I suspect at least some Tories will see the flaw in this plan. The average age of the Tory voter is 57 (and rising) and the US has a lower life expectancy than the UK. Does introducing a healthcare policy that will literally kill off your own voters really sound like a good idea? Inevitably some Tory MP’s will rebel (or sabotaging trade negotiations with the US, by for example doing something that will insult Trump’s ego). And if Boris repeats his mistake of expelling such MP’s he’ll simply piss away his majority very quickly.

And recall that the UK leaving the EU is merely one small step on the road. In fact its the easiest of the steps. The UK will have to start negotiating its future relationship with the EU and then all other states. This will require making some unpopular decisions which will upset some significant number of voters and prompt further rebellions and defections. And all against a backdrop of falling tax revenue, a sluggish economy and Scotland trying to leave again (but this time possibly succeeding). So without a very large majority its likely Boris will struggle to get anything done. Meaning an early election is also a possibility, doubly so if he’s dependant on brexit party support (which they’ll likely withdraw once they reason they can unseat a large enough body of Tories to essentially subvert the Tory party).

The problem for Boris at this point is that Thatcher (and her successor Major) won those elections against labour because the UK economy was doing well (probably down to the globalisation of trade and north sea oil rather than anything Thatcher actually did) and they were both keen on moving the UK closer to Europe (which is the one thing they did which we can definitely say did actually benefit the economy). Boris isn’t going to be so lucky.

He’ll be facing the opposite scenario and quite possibly a new labour leader who is both on the left of the party and electable. Because while I would expect labour to drift further to the right as time goes on, the first iteration will be someone who is still fairly close to Corbyn (just not surrounded by a cabal of brexit party fifth columnists with an axe to grind). The price the Tories could pay for brexit is ending up with a hard left government that proceeds to take revenge on them and their voters for brexit and austerity.


So while I would encourage people to vote, I’d point out that you might well find you have to vote again in the not too distant future. But we still can’t have a 2nd referendum, because apparently asking people to vote twice on the same issue is undemocratic, yet asking them to vote multiple times in an election until the politicians get the result they want is ok.

Brexit and the game of dolts


Brexit seems to becoming a byword for foolishness and folly as well as deceit and betrayal. And we need only look at the strategies being pursued by Corbyn and Johnson for proof of that. Both appear to be adopting a policy towards brexit that is reckless and foolhardy. But equally for both leaders, their stated policy is just a charade for what is their real agenda.

Corbyn for example says that he will support a general election as soon as the EU rules out no deal. This despite predictions suggesting he will likely lose a general election. Either by a small margin (but with the Tories losing enough seats to offer labour the chance of a coalition with other parties), or by some massive margin. Naturally this has labour MP’s with small majorities (and even some with big majorities) in jitters.

A more sensible strategy would be to use his defacto majority to take control of parliament (with the aid of Tory rebels and the smaller parties) and start amending and then pushing through Johnson’s withdrawal deal. They could amend the deal to put back in a customs union and protection for workers rights. While it seems unlikely he’d be able to attach a public vote to it (that said, according to the lib dems the main barrier to people’s vote right now is the labour party), but certainly Corbyn could lay the ground work for that.

This would turn things on its head. Labour would go into an election with a clear brexit position – vote for us and we will put this amended deal to the public. Only labour can “get brexit done”. Instead it would be Johnson whose left with a ambiguous position on brexit. Out one side of his mouth he’ll be promising a no deal (maybe tomorrow, maybe at the end of the transition period, but some day and for the rest of your life). Out the other side, oh I want a deal (maybe the amended one, maybe a different one, who knows!)….and presumably out his arse whatever Dominic Cummings reckons will win the most votes!

Instead Corbyn is committing labour to yet more fence sitting contortions, with a brexit policy as clear as Irish stout. And since we are talking about it, he’s not taken any action to punish the 19 MP’s who defied the whip and voted for a brexit deal that would strip UK workers of their rights and allow the wrecking of environmental standards.

This has led to howls of protest from labour supporters who now say that not only do they not know where labour stands on brexit, but where does it stand on anything else for that matter. And can you blame them. On the one hand we have labour promising a carbon neutral UK (if they win an election…and the climate deniers in the party can be made to vote for it one assumes). Yet the same week we have labour MP’s voting for a bill that will roll back environmental protections. Can any part of their manifesto be taken seriously now? Naturally, this is not the sort of scenario where you want to go into an election.

Meanwhile the sensible strategy for Johnson would be to carry on regardless. Given that there seems to be momentum to push the brexit deal through, ride that wave and try to thwart efforts to edit or amend it too much. In other words follow through with his own election slogan to “get brexit done”. Yes that will require a short extension, but so what, it still happens in the near future.

But instead he’s pulled the vote on the deal from parliament and focused on getting an election. In fact he’s even implied that if he doesn’t get his election he’ll just take his toys back to Downing street and sulk, then pretend he’s having one by going out campaigning. This has put the possibility of a brexit extension from the EU in jeopardy. And, as I’ve discussed before, while yes the odds are good that Johnson could win, it would be huge gamble as it could easily backfire (particularly if the opposition promote the line, we were willing to vote through a deal, only reason we didn’t was because of Johnson).

And since we are talking about it, an election at Christmas time, seriously? Are you lot for real? Is Boris related by any chance to the Grinch? Do these clowns have any idea of the logistics involved in holding election at Christmas. At a time of year when people are either going to be busy finishing work before the holidays (students will be up to the eyeballs in coursework and exam preparation) or Christmas shopping you want to have an election. With the risk that weather related events could disrupt the vote, postal ballots will be delayed and every church hall & function room in the country booked for a Christmas related events.

So the positions of both party leaders appears to be foolish. At least until you understand what’s really going on. Johnson knows his brexit deal is bonkers. I mean he’s putting a hard border down the Irish sea, such that British people will have to show a passport and go through customs and immigration controls passing between two parts of the same country. But its a placebo deal designed to serve one purpose, get him an election so he can get a majority. After that he couldn’t give a monkey’s.

To Johnson brexit has always been a means to an end. I won’t be surprised, if he wins a large majority, if he then tosses the ERG lot under the bus (same as he did to the DUP) and pushes for a soft brexit or even revokes article 50. Anything is possible with Johnson, as it depends what the hedge funds managers backing him think will net them the biggest gain. He’s the ultimate disaster capitalist.

Corbyn meanwhile doesn’t want to lay the ground work for a public vote because then he’d have to hold one. And he knows full well the likely outcome would be remain. The reality is that Corbyn is a more committed brexiter than either Johnson or the ERG. He’s basically playing the long game. Corbyn knows he’s unelectable, nor is it likely any hard left labour leader could ever be elected under normal circumstances. But a damaging no deal brexit, brought about by the Tories would allow a future hard left leader (and there’s a number of viable candidates within labour) to do just that. Its not so much disaster capitalism but disaster socialism.

But either way, brexit has become a political football. A game to be played for political advantage. And the politicians are placing the pursuit of this game over the best interests of the country. And neither of them shows the slightest inclination towards actually resolving the brexit question. I mean who’d want to go and do a silly thing like that!

Nihilistic rebellion


4587 Monbiot having some fun enjoying his white middle class privilege….

This last week George Monbiot (the same person who was convinced by Fukushima to support Hinkley C and that brexit wouldn’t be so bad…even thought all talk of preserving environmental standards and workers rights has now been moved to the non legally binding part of the revised withdrawal agreement) encouraged people to join extinction rebellion and “get themselves arrested. Its a middle class thing I suppose. Good luck trying to get into the US or the EU post-brexit afterwards mind!

I’ve been a bit worried about the anti-climate change group extinction rebellion for sometime now. As I’ve mentioned before their stated aims are just plain crazy and their methods counter productive. Case in point, this week they held a protest halting commuter trains in London…..and promptly got beaten up by angry commuters (which if…

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The age of snakeoil


The internet has brought many benefits. But it also has created many problems. And probably top of those problems is the ease with which bad ideas can quickly proliferate. Its all too easy to create a slick advertising campaign for something that fundamentally does not work or is just impossible (because it violates the basic laws of physics). Solar roadways, the Fyre festival, those water woo devices I tackled sometime ago (notably Fontus) and the Thernaos scandal are merely some examples of this trend.


As a result we are now living in the age of the charlatan, the fraudster and the con artist. In much the same way some snake oil salesman could pull his one many show into a town in the old west and make a fortune selling turpentine to a couple of slack jawed yokels, the same can be done today – only…

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Three borders Boris & the post brexit backlash


So after several months of Johnson & the DUP saying no, no, never to any form of hard border on the island of Ireland (something he reaffirmed just 24 hrs before), now he’s proposing to put in place two borders (or arguably three borders as there will need to be immigration checks at the Ferry ports). And rather than a backstop (which recall was a British idea, not the EU’s) he’s managed to come up with something worse.

To say its unworkable is something of an understatement. Are we seriously to believe that a farmer, whose farm straddles the border (a not uncommon thing), and wants to move a cow from one side of the border to the other has to drive 10 km’s into NI, clear customs, drive 20 km’s back and into Ireland, then 10 km’s back to the farm. And without border checks what’s to stop a truck that’s been cleared through customs simply stopping in a lay-by, loading up with contraband and then driving through (then off load again onto another truck once across). And in the unlikely event of getting caught (the police have made clear there is no way they could hope to search even a fraction of the vehicle traffic), the driver just claims he’s moving a load to Donegal.

And the best bit, the backstop is replaced by the Stormont lock. The economic fate of the EU, UK and Ireland would hinge on the competence of one of the most incompetent and corrupt legislative bodies in Europe. Stormont hasn’t met for two years, officially because of silly dispute over the Irish language. However in reality, the DUP are fearful that Sinn Fein will be able to get enough support from the neutral parties to form a government and take power. They’d then likely use the aftermath of brexit to force through a border poll. And that’s not idle paranoia, SF entire reason for existing is a united Ireland.

So its entirely likely SF would use the Stormont lock as a wedge to force a border poll if given half a chance (while the DUP will use it to frustrate them and seek further bribes from Westminster). Neither party will even remotely care about the economic damage their actions cause. After all if why do you think the GDP for NI is so much lower than it is in the rest of the UK (NI’s GDP is only 23,000 v’s about 42,000 for the whole of the UK and 77,000 for the republic). And any kind of hard border will make NI even poorer, which will eventually just lead to the resumption of terrorist attacks.

Clearly the primary purpose of this proposal is so that Johnson’s tabloid allies can sell it as a compromise. One that will only fail because of the EU, remainers and traitorous judges & civil servants. As I said in my last post, Johnson has suspended parliament (you know like Hitler did!) and is now trying to find a way to suspend laws he doesn’t like, notably the Benn act. Clearly his electoral plan is to blame the EU for no deal/no brexit, while dialing the lying and anti-Corbyn rhetoric up to eleven.


A delivery of vintage champagne to the Tory conference. And the Tory pitch is you should vote for them because the other parties represent an out of touch elite!

Such irresponsible behaviour, just so that he can cling to power has to be some of the worse behaviour we’ve ever seen from a UK government, which is setting a very dangerous precedence. The many miscalculations that are going on here is staggering, and the consequences are likely to be severe. They’ve even been sample testing George Soros conspiracy theories (ya and labour are the ones labelled as anti-Semitic, go figure!).

I mean we were told that we need to get out of the EU because of all the money it costs, yet we now have a government promising to spend tens of billions just dealing with the fallout of a no deal. And this is merely one of a long list of spending commitments, with no clue as to where the money is supposed to come from (and labour have pointed out some are actually prior spending commitments which have run over budget (due to inflation from the falling pound & Tory incompetence) and need more money!).

And Johnson’s plan (his real one, not this silly proposal to the EU) only works if he can force through an early election (before the negative consequences of brexit become obvious). Now if the opposition has any sense they’ll not allow that, forcing Boris to stay on and deal with the consequences of a no deal with a minority government and lose vote after vote for two years….then again, Corbyn might just be dumb enough to allow an early election. Even so while yes the Tories are well ahead in the polls, that doesn’t mean they’ll win. They are effectively sacrificing pro-remain seats in cities and Scotland, in favour of leave voting seats in the North and industrial towns.

However, that would require getting the voters in those districts to vote Tory…which many won’t do (these are the people Thatcher screwed over, many hate the Tories, in fact they voted leave as a two fingered salute against the Tories). So the strategy is more about getting them to vote for the brexit party, who would steal enough support off labour to allow the Tories to win those seats. But its a strategy that could easily fall apart.

If theirpeople v’s parliament campaign works too well, then the brexit party takes those seats (potentially becoming too big for the Tories to control, or even overtaking them). And if the lib dems withdraw their candidates (perhaps doing a last minute deal with labour), labour might still hang onto them. And given that the Tories now need to make up a 40 seat deficit (and they’ll likely lose a further 20-40 more to the lib dems & SNP), there’s every chance Boris could find himself well short of a majority, even if he wins the popular vote by a comfortable margin (as I’ve pointed out before, its possible under FptP for a party to win the popular vote, but finish 2nd in terms of seats).

And while the Tories might be planning to promise high spending and then air brush those promises from history (as they’ve tried to do before), I’m not sure the public will be happy about that when they discover they’ve basically been conned. Yes politicians do lie, but never before have voters been scammed on this scale. Consider for example Boris seems to be quietly accepting that post-brexit immigration pledges can’t be met. Likely because he knows that the likes of India and China will make the relaxation of immigration controls a condition of any trade deal.

Ultimately the problem here is that the Tory party no longer has any sort of ideology (they have literally lost the plot), other than sadopopulist rhetoric and self inflicted suffering, which they will blame on others. Much like the US Republican party they now exist for no real purpose other than to stop anyone else changing things for the better. While pursuing policies that they know will leave the very people who vote for them worse off….and of course lining their own pockets. And Johnson’s close links to hedge funds betting on a no deal outcome means the Tories already make the GOP look like amateur hour in this regard.

But like I said, the consequences to for the UK of these games the Tories are playing is going to be dire. And a hard brexit is just the start. Have the Tories paused to consider the sort of bus that a future left wing populist leader could drive through the UK legal system if they were to behave like the Tories.

Brexit has radicalised the left in the UK. Hence we have policies coming out of labour calling for private schools to be scrapped and their assets ceased. Granted, at the moment this is just a lunatic fringe on the edges of the labour party (and labour lack the votes to form a majority government). But a no deal brexit and another 5 years of Tory rule could well mean that such a fringe will be the ones in charge (keep in mind Corbyn will be gone, someone more electable will be leader and they might also be from the radical left wing of the labour party).

Because such radicals won’t be interested in simply reversing Tory policies any more. Instead the goal will be more about get revenge on Tory’s and brexit voters. This after all is where Italy’s 5star movement came from. Its how the Bolivarians in Venezuela got started and why they are still in power despite the fact the country’s economy has effectively collapsed (as some in the Venezuela take the view, well I have it bad, but at least the wealthy and the elites have finally gotten their comeuppance). So it is a serious risk.

Because it means that a future hard left PM post-brexit won’t be banning public schools. He or she will simply encourage their supporters to burn them to the ground. No need to nationalise the railway’s or energy companies, simply tell their supporters to dodge their fare and not pay their bills. And ya the courts will give him a rebuke for that, but much as Boris isn’t going to jail for an unlawful suspension of parliament, neither will this future PM.

And if you can simply suspend laws due to a crisis (as seems to be Johnson’s plan, to whip up riots and then suspend the Benn act), that applies to the left as well (e.g. they use riots and burning of public schools as an excuse to suspend certain laws, cease the assets of the wealthy or abolish the old age pension in order to punish the older generation for brexit). What goes around comes around.

And in the US as well, Trump has essentially radicalised the left. And again, while at the moment that likely means Warren winning the nomination (possibly Biden if the GOP get lucky), I suspect after a Trump 2nd term the left’s candidate might be a little more radical (so if you think either of them are a bit too left wing, buckle up!). And again this radicalised left will be more interested in screwing Trump voters than fixing America.

They could for example use the same emergency powers Trump has used to ban guns, or enact the green new deal, or stack the supreme court with a dozen millennial liberals (then change the law so congress no longer has any say in appointing future justices). They could go line by line through the US budget and cut anything that benefits Republican voting states. And given that many red states are massive welfare queens, while democrat states often send more money to DC than they spent, this would basically bankrupt many red states, while allowing blue states to take a tax cut, or spend more on public services.

And recall there is one nuclear option that a future sadopopulist left wing government could implement relatively easily, that would utterly screw over the older generations to the benefit millennial’s. Make no effort to defend the value of the pound or the dollar and run the magic printing press and start spending like a sailor on shore leave. But wouldn’t that cause hyper inflation? Ya, that would kind of be the point! You’d quickly wipe out the debts of many young millennial’s while simultaneously wiping out the value of pensioners savings and the assets of the wealthy.

Now to be clear, I’m not necessarily advocating these policies. The last one for example, many governments have tried to use high inflation to wipe out debts and its often run out of their control (just look at Argentina some time!). I’m simply pointing out what will happen if the left starts action like trump supporters or brexiters. Really the best case scenario for both groups is for their respective leaders to be impeached and removed from office and given a lengthy prison sentence. As otherwise I won’t want to be a wealthy conservative (or a pensioner) in about 5 years time.

And while I understand why many want to vote Tory in order to “get brexit done, but as I’ve pointed out before a no deal doesn’t end brexit (brexit is a process not a destination), it simply lengthens the process and makes sure the UK will be over a barrel (once we’ve run out of bog roll, food, fuel and medicines) when it comes to negotiating a future relationship with the EU, USA and other major trading partners (as recent US tariff’s against the UK demonstrate). In truth if you want to wipe brexit from the political agenda, then really the lib dem plan to revoke article 50 is the only thing that would do that.

What does the EU want out of brexit?


The brexiter’s have been ratcheting up the rhetoric recently, portraying anyone asking for an extension as “surrender“. And a 2nd referendum they say would be “a betrayal”. Such language is extremely dangerous. Its put MP’s and even their kids at risk. Boris is only a few steps away from becoming a dictator. He suspended parliament and is now trying to find a way to suspend laws he doesn’t like, which would set a dreadful precedence. Woe to the Tories should a hard brexit go through, as they are simply inviting any future hard left government to do the same (or worse!).

But is it really a “betrayal” to want to stay in the EU? There seems to be an automatic assumption that the EU wants the UK to stay. I’d argue that if anything the opposite is true. While yes many europeans would want to avoid seeing the UK leave and we’ve had the odd brain fart from European leaders along the lines of maybe the UK should just stay. But these comments are more exasperation at how messy this process has become.

In truth the EU has long resigned itself to the fact the UK is leaving. After all, its not like the UK was ever the most committed member of the block. And with the UK out of the block, yet probably tied to the EU in some way or form (just unable to veto anything Brussels does), is likely seen as the best of both world’s as far as the Brussels eurocrats are concerned. So the EU wants the UK to leave, but leave with a deal of some sorts. Specifically a deal that doesn’t spark a civil war in NI, or potentially one in Scotland either (given the chances of them leaving after brexit).

But, the brexiters say we don’t want a custom’s union, we want a free trade deal. Well a free trade deal was the EU’s opening bid to Theresa May, but the hard brexiters said no to that. Not because of the backstop, this initial offer contained no such thing. But because it meant NI staying in the single market, with the customs border essentially being at the Irish sea. To the Brussel’s eurocrats this seemed the most pragmatic solution to the problem, given the noises coming out of London. After all, NI’s economy is heavily integrated with Ireland’s and any kind of customs checks would cripple its economy overnight….which would probably lead to NI having a referendum and joining the south.


The EU’s decision making process and why they felt a Canada style FTA might be the only alternative to no deal

Of course just because Brussels offers you an FTA, doesn’t mean you should take it. Its a good solution…for the EU! It would mean that they’d open up trade with the UK just as much as they need too, but restrict trade in other areas. So they’d allow trade in agricultural products and some manufactured goods, allowing EU states to continue to export to the UK tariff free (but with some customs checks), but then restrict access in other areas (such as finance, seems unlikely they’d concede on this after the cum-ex scandal).

Of course if the UK were to sign similar FTA’s with the US and China, then UK companies would be in the worst of both worlds. Required to meet strict EU standards if they want to export into the block, yet still facing custom’s checks and delays at the border. While also facing competition from cheap low quality products flooding the country tariff free from beyond the EU. Inevitably many UK farmers and manufacturers would go to the wall. After that happens the EU, US and China would carve up what’s left of the UK market between them. I mean why do you think Dyson moved to Singapore and Rees Mogg has relocated his hedge fund to Dublin. They know how its going to go down.


A FTA is better than no deal, but not by much

This is not too say Brussels is opposed to a custom’s union. Far from it! Their concern is, given how the brexiters claim that the EU is undemocratic (this from a party who has suspended democracy and now wants to suspend the rule of law), you can imagine the fuss the UK will make about being in the situation where they are a rule taker, not a rule maker, yet still paying 90% of what it costs to be a fully signed up EU member.

But yes, if a custom’s union can get voted through parliament then the EU would allow it. In fact I get the impression (from the language in the withdrawal deal) the plan was for May to wait until she was in a position to throw either the hard brexiters or the DUP under the bus (perhaps by doing a deal with Corbyn or winning another post-brexit election), then do a custom’s union and thus negate the need for a backstop.

The reality is that there is only one reason why the UK hasn’t left yet, and its because of the Tory party. If anyone has “betrayed brexit” or “surrendered” (to Putin and Trump) its the Tory party. Had they rallied around some soft brexit option (e.g. the Norway or Swiss model) early on in the process, that would have likely been acceptable to the remainer’s within parliament. And recall, May had a majority at the start of this process. She only pissed away that majority in an effort to win a bigger majority as she couldn’t get the hard brexiters to commit to any softer options. And ironically, the Tories current no deal plans effectively imposes the same status on the NI border as the EU originally proposed.

And those hard brexiters are now taking the hard line position they have now adopted because they are trapped. If they don’t leave the EU by Halloween, they’ll lose support to the brexit party. On the other hand they know they can’t possibly meet all the promises they made in the referendum. Any kind of deal will screw over the UK in some way. So better to go for a no deal then, which would please certain wealthy tax dodgers whom they are in the pocket of (the EU’s tax laws change in January, making it harder to dodge taxes and keep accounts secret, any sort of withdrawal agreement would see the UK still subject to EU laws during this period) and blame the negative consequences of a no deal on the EU, remainers and poor people.

The downgrading of the UK’s shale gas potential



While school protests about climate change under way and the country in chaos over brexit, fracking has quietly restarted in the UK…leading to more earthquakes. But a recent report from a pair of UK academics has cast doubt on the amount of shale gas available in the UK. They suggest that shale gas reserves are likely to be just 20% of the size previously estimated. And its still unclear how much of that can be viably tapped.

The problem boils down to how the original estimate was made. It was based on historic knowledge of this shale formation under the UK Midlands (which has been known about for many decades). Compiling the data on this formation, its size was estimated. The amount of gas available was then calculated with the aid of gas density estimates from US shale formations. However it turns out that the shale formations…

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Revoke or referendum, the lib dem’s dilemma


Normally what’s in the lib dem’s manifesto hardly matters, given the very low probability of them ever being able to implement it. However, with them now vying for 2nd place against labour and the brexit party (and a meltdown with more defections from labour is likely due to heavy handed tactics at conference from Corbyn’s red pioneer brigade), it suddenly becomes a little more relevant. And they’ve promised to not only support a people’s vote, but try to revoke article 50 and cancel brexit altogether.

This has drawn criticism from many quarters, even from other remain supporters, such as Caroline Lucas. And while I would tend to agree, the way out of the current mess is another referendum (preferably legally binding with remain and a definite brexit option on the ballot), but that’s easier said than done. While a 2nd referendum is probably inevitable (even if the UK leaves, there will just be another in ten years time to rejoin), it does not follow through that this will resolve the divide brexit has created in the UK.

To illustrate my point let us suppose that a pro-people’s vote coalition either force Johnson out in October, or win an election. Firstly, in order to have a people’s vote, they need to get another extension. And it will have to be a longish one, ideally a year. The brexiters will run resistance at every turn, slowing down legislation and you need time to run the campaign (the electoral commission says a minimum of 6 months will be needed). Plus, while polls do suggest remain would win, you’d have to allow sometime at the end to get the country ready if leave wins a 2nd time (as there will be no stopping brexit at this point, as its a legally binding poll).

This creates the first obstacle. A long extension might be refused. The eurosceptic nations in the EU want the UK to leave, but leave with a deal, hence they’ve been willing to grant extensions up until now. They might well veto one if its for a people’s vote (especially if its a bearded leftie like Corbyn who is the one asking for an extension). And some of the more pro-EU nations might even veto it, calculating that the remainers will not follow through with a no deal and simply cancel brexit instead.

Granted, they may get around this problem, and a clever PM (which rules out Corbyn!) would find a way to bargain with the EU leaders (or just threaten to revoke article 50 and then re-issue it at a time when it will be most inconvenient for Brussels). But next there’s the hurdle of getting a referendum bill through parliament. Remain’s going to be one option on the ballot, but what about the brexit option?

As I mentioned before, the reason why no other EU state has tried to leave and the reason the UK still hasn’t left is that once you take away the unicorns and start getting specific about which brexit option you want (Norway model, reverse Greenland, Swiss plus, Canada dry, etc.) opinion divides, largely because it means accepting that you are worse off out than in. And as noted, polls do show that once you put a specific type of brexit to people v’s remain, remain typically wins by a comfortable margin.

The brexiters, all too aware of this fact, will therefore be reluctant to commit to any specific brexit option, other that perhaps no deal. This appeals to them largely because its kind of a blank canvas and they can paint on any outcome they like. It sounds like a clean break. In truth however, it just means that when we run out of bog roll, food and medicines the EU will have the UK over a barrel in negotiations. As will the US and the Chinese. Plus no deal is likely illegal. Hence putting it on a legally binding ballot might be impossible, as it will likely be challenged in court.

Some talk of a three way ballot or multiple choice ballots. I’d argue that’s risky. It might confuse voters and you can be guaranteed the tabloids, the brexiters and Putin’s trolls will make damn sure they are given incorrect instructions, as they try to game the outcome they want. As a result it could lead to a messy outcome that makes the current situation even worse. I mean imagine if we had two brexit options that each got 30% and remain got 40% and remain wins by a 10% margin. Or a alternative vote ballot, where remain wins the first round by a high margin, May/Corbyn’s deal gets eliminated, but the transferable votes from it allow no deal to sneak through by a few hundred votes (with claims afterwards of several thousand who were given incorrect instructions by Twitter trolls). There would be howls of protest.

Realistically, the only way to hold a people’s vote is with two options on the ballot, some sort of brexit deal and remain. But who will decide on which? And more importantly who will lead the leave campaign? Corbyn has suggested he’d be happy to negotiate a deal (in other words cross out May’s name and insert his!), but will then hide in his allotment shed for the duration of any referendum campaign. While I’m sure May could be tempted to front such a campaign (she’s a glutton for punishment after all), but the leading brexiters, Farage, Johnson, et al will all refuse to participate and they’ll tell their supporters its a remainer stitch up, boycott the poll.

Why you may ask? Well simple Fabian tactics. If you know you are going to lose (and like I said the polls put remain ahead by +10% over most of the brexit options), why fight when you can just march off the field. And for them brexit is a means to an end. If there were to be a 2nd referendum which they lost fair and square by a comfortable margin, they’re finished. As I’ve mentioned before, a 2nd referendum will be something of a grudge match. While Cameron prevented any “blue on blue” attack ads during the 1st campaign, labour and the lib dems will let lose with both barrels.

After all, the best way to win would be to question the motives of those pushing for brexit (i.e. the fact that are involved with hedge funds who will do rather well profiting from the UK’s decline), while pointing to the hypocrisies of the leavers (e.g. that Farage has a German citzenship). Plus do you really want to trust the country’s future to someone like Boris who isn’t even trusted by his own brother. So many of those in the Tory party who hitched their wagon to the brexit train will be forced to resign and the brexit party will be sunk. Even if by some miracle brexit still won they’ll still take a hit, it would still be a zero sum game for them. Better to stay out of the fight and encourage a boycott.

And yes, the outcome of such a scenario will be remain wins by some massive crazy majority (90% sort of thing). But unless the turn out is suitably high (and if you know remain’s going to win anyway, are people really going to waste their time going to the polls?), the brexiters will argue it wasn’t a fair fight and they can ignore it, promising to re-issue article 50 the first chance they get. In other words you’ve not changed anything.

So given such facts of life, the Lib dems proposal to revoke is actually quite pragmatic. There’s no point in holding a people’s vote if its not going to resolve anything. But I would add a caveat. I’d suggest cancelling brexit, by revoking article 50, but putting a grandfather clause in that requires the government to return to this issue after a suitable delay (say 5-10 years after which the government must pass another bill confirming we are staying in or else a legally binding referendum to leave will be automatically triggered). This means they can say to leave voters, look we wanted to have a 2nd vote and settle this issue, but it takes two to tango and the brexiters just took off their dancing shoes and downed a bottle of scotch. So by deliberately kicking the can down the road the current crisis is resolved, but it leaves open the option to return to the issue at some point in the future.

And delaying a 2nd vote does have advantages. While I’d argue it would be hard to hold a fair and balanced poll now, that doesn’t further divide the country, emotions might not be running so high in the future. Given that presumably such a remainer alliance will have by then, ended austerity and gone some way towards fixing the mess left by the Tories (plus issues like the migrant crisis might well be resolved), a referendum can be held under much fairer and more rational conditions. And simple demographics means that many of these swivel eyed no-deal supporting pensioners will have died off, replaced with younger voters (who tend to want remain, or if they are pro-leave, they tend to want a soft brexit).

In fact its entirely possible that even if a Troy/brexit party coalition could get into power in ten years time they’ll come up with some excuse not to have a 2nd vote (because they know that they’ll lose and even if they win they’ll be throwing away their time in office, repeating the mess of the last few years). So while yes, I support a people’s vote, I think we need to be realistic about how it will be held. And revoking article 50 certainly has to be an option that gets considered.

Why has no other country tried to leave the EU?


I had an interesting conversation the other day with someone from another EU country (Holland) and it led to something of a thought experiment. Why has no other country ever tried to leave the EU?

I mean its not as if euroscepticism is an entirely British phenomenon. There’s been several occasions where populists eurosceptic parties have held a majority in government, most recently in Italy for example. And polls show there’s a possibility such a thing could go through. Yet despite all the vitriol and anti-EU rhetoric they haven’t put their money where their mouth is and tried to hold a referendum and leave, Why? Well the answer tells us more about the UK than it does about the EU.


Most EU states are governed by constitutions which would require a legally binding referendum be held, prior to leaving, as an absolute minimum. In fact in some country’s you’d have to get a supermajority to approve it (+50% of the entire population, not just those who bother to show up at the polls, by contrast brexit only got the support of 37%). This is in stark contrast to the UK, whose constitution is a bunch of vague guidelines written on goatskin, which seems to assume any politician is going to be an honourable gentleman who’ll put the country first. And if he breaks the rules he gets called a knave and doesn’t get invited to the Speakers annual garden party.

Hence many of the dirty tricks employed by the brexiters to win the 2016 referendum would not be available to continental eurosceptics, as such antics would get them into very serious trouble. Prison time sort of trouble. The UK’s electoral commission has found that the vote leave campaign broke the law during the referendum. The only reason why the result wasn’t annulled by the courts (and why Cummings, Johnson, Farage et al aren’t serving prison terms) is because it was a non-legally binding advisory referendum. Eurosceptics on the continent dislike the EU yes. But very few of them hate it that much that they are willing to risk ending up in a 6×6 cell, sharing prison showers with a massive tattooed guy called Bubba.

Furthermore with a legally binding referendum you’d probably have to specify what kind of brexit you were aiming for. Otherwise it might be at risk of court challenges before a vote is even held. This was another problem with the referendum, the question asked was too vague, you may as well have asked “do you hate the French?” or “is blue your favourite colour?”. This allowed brexit to become a blank canvas onto which unicorns could be painted. Hence brexiters could sell the idea of the UK leaving, yet keeping all the benefits of staying in, without it costing a penny.

Specifying which brexit you are aiming for would present a problem, because much as the UK brexiters can’t agree what kind of brexit they want, European eurosceptics are as equally divided. The odds are such a bill would fail at the first hurdle as they’d not be able to get behind a proposal through parliament to trigger such a referendum. And once they’d nailed their colours to the mast, polls do show that when presented with a specific brexit option (Norway for now, May’s deal, no deal) support ebbs away (as people are forced to weight up the pro’s and cons). And generally remain wins any side by side comparison (because it means accepting you are worse off out than in).

And as many EU states are federations (Germany and Spain for example) with regional assemblies, they’d have to find a way to resolve what happens if say Catalonia vote to stay and Andalusia votes to leave. Not least because in some cases these regional assemblies might have to approve of any referendum before it can be held (which they won’t do until all the what if’s are resolved), not to mention pass the secondary legislation afterwards to allow the country as a whole to leave. Yes there’s usually a way for central government to railroad things through but, suffice to say, this is opening a massive can of worms. One which is firmly labelled “do not open this can, national self destruction may follow”.

And of course even if you can get the initial bill through parliament, get the public to vote for it (by a significant majority) you’ve still got to go to Brussels and negotiate an exit. And for the UK this is where the fireworks started. Basically this means putting on hold all important business so you can conduct the negotiations and push through the supporting legislation to allow for leaving the EU.

The Tories have gotten away with various dirty tricks to drive through brexit, using the dictatorial Henry VII powers, cancelling votes at the last minute, moving forward a vote when you realise several pro-remain MP’s are off sick, bribing MP’s with promises of peerages, stacking the lords with peers to filibuster any anti-brexit legislation and of course more recently proroguing parliament (i.e. suspending democracy), an act now deemed unlawful as its likely the PM lied to the Queen. Very little of this would be legal in other EU states, nor would politicians find it so easy to get away with it.

And given that many countries on the continent have had more recent experience of living under a dictatorship (fascists, junta’s or communists) electorates tend to be a bit more sensitive about this sort of behaviour. Plus because many European government’s are elected by proportional representation, that means they are often coalitions. And the odds are good that such a coalition would fracture under the strain of an EU exit process. So its possible the whole thing will collapse before the process is complete.

Oh and a just for good measure a 2nd referendum afterwards might also be needed to confirm everything (as its likely what was promised will be different from what exit you actually end up with, or you need to confirm constitutional changes with a referendum). And obviously the whole reason why brexiters in the UK are resisting this option is because they know they will likely lose such a vote.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it would be impossible for any other European country to leave the EU. After all many held votes to join in the first place, or approve the various EU treaties. So with enough public support and goodwill its possible. But perhaps that’s the point, there just isn’t the support for leaving (with the possible exception of Italy). Getting the turkey’s to vote to put the charismatic Mr Fox in charge of the hen house is one thing. Getting them to vote for Christmas is an entirely different matter. And given that leaving sounds a lot like hard work (with the added risk of prison time), most populists would rather not bother trying and instead prefer to busy themselves collecting kickbacks and bribes.

But even if populist eurosceptics could drag their country out of the EU, what then? Who are you going to blame when things go wrong? The EU gets a lot of blame for things because its a cheap shot. They are a large faceless bureaucracy and an obvious scapegoat who isn’t going to fight back. And this cuts to the heart of populism, which is basically about avoiding responsibility and blaming others for your own misfortune.

The economy collapses because you voted in a bunch of incompetent politicians who borrowed heavily and spent like sailors on shore leave? Not our fault, its the fault of the EU (who bailed you out, how mean of them forcing billions into your country’s coffers!)….oh and of course recently arrived migrants, its their fault too. Can’t get a council house? Not your fault for voting Tory (who basically stopped building them in the 80’s and sold off most of the stock) its immigrants and refugees coming in and taking them (actually they are no less likely to get one than a Brit). Late for work? Not your fault, its those lazy immigrant bus drivers….and EU elf N’ safety….somehow! This is what populism is all about, blame somebody else for everything that’s gone wrong. Don’t take responsibility for anything.

So if you are out of the EU, and you’ve deported all the migrants, who are you going to blame when things go wrong? Now granted, its pretty clear Johnson’s plan is to blame the EU for the UK’s post-brexit economic misfortune. However the major threat from brexit isn’t the short term dip afterwards, its the longer term consequences. Its going to be a bit rich 5-10 years after leaving for the Tories to still be blaming the EU every time a UK firm goes bust or for a drop in life expectancy. At some point the penny drops and the odds are the UK will simply re-join the EU under terms less favourable than it currently enjoys.

And this is why, despite all the bravado from continental eurosceptics, there’s been no other attempts to leave the EU. They have better things to do with their time than destroy their own parties and getting themselves arrested. We end up with a cat and dog like situation. The cat and the dog don’t like each other, but they just find a way to get along with one another. Its the same thing with the eurosceptics and the EU. The eurosceptic little doggie is quite happy to bark all day, but his bark is worse than his bite. After all it wasn’t Farage who called the referendum, but Cameron (Farage was quite happy to stay on as an MEP and collect his generous salary).

The only reason therefore the UK is posed to leave without a deal….and the chaos and blow back that will inevitably follow, is because of its broken political system. Leave or remain, these flaws will still exist, even if brexit is somehow swept from the political agenda. This is why reform of the UK’s entire political system is what parliament should be devoting its time towards, rather than arguing over brexit. For it is a symptom rather than the disease itself.