Non Rio news

Brexit guarantee

Reacting to the wide scale dismay over possible funding cuts, the UK government has committed about £6 billion a year to guarantee post-EU funding in areas such as farming and scientific research. But critics argue it doesn’t go far enough. Indeed, I would argue its very worrying as it suggests the government simply does not get the message.

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The UK receives billions in research funding from the EU

Take research funding. A clause in the government guarantee implies it only applies to research funding contracts signed before the autumn statement comes out. Given that many of those grants went in the bin on the 24th of June it is highly unlikely they could be resurrected between now and then. That’s not how academia works.

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For UK farmers subsidies are their main source of income

I’ve been quite busy the last week with resit exam marking, I’ve got viva resits coming up and the start of term. It would be mid-October before I or anyone else in academia could get around a table. And it would then take a few weeks or months for the EU to then okay everything. Keep in mind most of the EU research at risk involves collaborative research projects, across multiple states, so even with Brexit it will involve the EU. And typically the EU will only provide a portion of the funds, we then source the rest from private industry. Naturally the private sector, worried about the economic impact of Brexit might still say no.

And what about freedom of movement? A leave supporting MP only recently realised Brexit might leave EU citizens in limbo, nah you think! If I need to recruit a PhD student or a Research Assistant with a specific and narrow set of skills, its questionable if I can do that if I’m only restricted to the UK. Any doubt about my ability to recruit and the other partners (public and private) in the EU will still be asking me to take my name off the application. The fact that the government doesn’t realise any of this just shows you how out of touch they are.

More importantly this announcement more or less confirms what I’d warned before the referendum. That you can forget about that £350 million a month. The UK will still need to pay the EU for access to the single market. Keep in mind Norway pays something like 90% per capita of what they UK pays, we’ll suffer the drop in tax revenue that comes with leaving the EU (due to reduced trade) and we have to come up with several billion more a year extra too.

In short the UK is already worse off and we’ve not even got to the tricky parts of the negotiations yet (where we have to agree to call Cheddar “reconstituted lard” and English wine as “Du Vin Roast beef”).

China warns the UK over Hinkley C

The Chinese have issued a strongly worded warning to the UK over the threat to the Hinkley C deal. As always, this goes way beyond a simple nuclear power plant. It shows what sort of pressures the UK will face post-Brexit.

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China unveil’s its prototype reactor at Hinkley point

Leave campaigners, will argue that they can get a trade deal quicker off other countries than the EU can, which often takes years or decades to negotiate a deal. This is true, in much the same way I could buy a car tomorrow in ten minutes flat….if I didn’t mind going to a dodgy Arthur Daley type and taking whatever cut and shut banger he offered! Getting a good deal means haggling and much arm twisting. The EU can do this because they are one of the world’s largest collective economy’s. The UK can’t because the Chinese (or US) will have the UK over a barrel. Its their way or the highway.

Hence, I suspect Hinkley C will still go ahead, regardless. Its an offer the British can’t refuse.

Leave turf war

Speaking of international trade, there’s a bit of a turf war going on between Boris Johnson and Liam Fox. Both argue that they are entitled to negotiate future international trade agreements. I’m wondering if Theresa May has, rather ghoulishly, taken a leaf out of Hitler’s book. In that he would often put people he didn’t like in departments with overlapping responsibilities and then sit back and watch them squabble.

In short one has to wonder if a number of the Brexiter’s are being set up to fail. Hence when the article 50 business is kicked into the long grass and ignored until after the next election, nobody can complain, and its the Brexit camp who will get the blame.

Norwegian…based in Ireland?

I travelled to Scandinavia over the summer. One thing that I found surprising to learn that the budget airline Norwegian is flagged in Ireland. Why? Well simple, because Ireland is in the EU. Norwegian has big plans to expand across the Atlantic and they know how protective the US is of its businesses (land of the free…but only if you contribute to my congressional campaign!).

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Norwegian Airlines…..flagged in Ireland

Indeed the Americans have raised concerns about how European budget airlines operate. Its also alleged that Norwegian plan on using air crews hired in from Asia for its Transatlantic operations. While I would tend to agree, budget airlines are pushing things a bit too far, but this is clearly a case of the pot calling the kettle black. American airlines have become notorious for squeezing the margins and pushing their pilots way too hard. There have in fact been several air crashes in the US that are blamed on pilot fatique.

So the reality is, all of this is just excuses, because the Americans realise that Norwegian is the thin end of the wedge. What they really fear is Ryanair bringing its not inconsiderable network and low cost model across the Atlantic (they have plans to do so, although they are currently on hold) and driving their airlines out of business. Who knows, if Michael O’Leary has his way, American cabin crew might have to stop being so rude and bossy to passengers!

But obviously the point is that if Norwegian wasn’t based in the EU, the Americans would have just told them to hit the road. But because they are based in an EU country, they have to at least negotiate. This explains the dilemma faced by Easyjet. Its probable that Ryanair will follow Norwegian and expand into the US market. Easyjet will face the choice of being a short haul British based company (hoping that any restrictions on migrant and travel doesn’t mean a dwindling market share). Or leave the UK, likely register in Ireland themselves, and become an international airline.

Yes, Ireland a nation of 4.5 million could well have more airlines in a few years time than the UK a nation 11 times larger! All thanks to Brexit.

When the generations fall out

An interesting article I came across regarding baby boomers, from another blogger. They enjoy a remarkably good deal. Many managed to buy a large house before such things became expensive, they’ve retired on a final salary pension in their 60’s, when most younger generations (or the generation before them) retired on a less generous settlement later….if at all! And a triple lock on their pensions, plus the ring fencing of certain elements of the NHS budget means they’ve been spared the harsh austerity the rest of society has had to endure.

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And to cap it all we have the Brexit vote, where baby boomers overwhelmingly voted to leave, a final two fingered salute to succeeding generations. Indeed, its worth noting that baby boomers are also the worst generation for environmental damage and the most likely generation to be climate change deniers…..and likely to be Trump voters.

In short, there’s a very serious risk of the generations falling out. Many of those flocking to labour and Corybn are young (and angry) millennials. While its unlikely they will win this time around, as the baby boomers die off, its inevitable that the younger generations will gain control and suffice to say there will be a day of reckoning.

Recall, as I pointed out in a prior article Brexit does complicate matters as far as national debt. Any default or “haircut” on national debts will hit pensioners, baby boomers in particular very hard. Many could see their income wiped out. The chances that the millennials will see their incomes squeezed yet further to pay off these debts (run up paying for baby boomers cosy life style and a failure of past governments to tax baby boomers more while they were working), after this generational betrayal, its slim to none.

Italian banks

And speaking of which, the trigger event for a sequence of sovereign debt defaults could be about to strike. There’s been further concerns expressed about the health of Italian banks. Italy is at risk of economic turmoil if a referendum goes against the government.

Now any Brexiters who feel smug and say this is why we need to get out of the EU, well no. The entire global economy is interconnected. If Italian banks go down and risk bringing down Italy, the impact will be felt worldwide. And its pensions and savers in the UK who will have to take a hit.

Ultimately, the world’s governments will face a difficult choice, bailout Italy (not an easy thing), or risk a contagion of debt spreading through the whole economy. A default of Italy would of course leave investors worrying about who is next and whether “safe as the bank of England” is really that safe. Which could make things very difficult for governments dependant on credit (such as the UK).

First contact?

Another interesting story revolves around a mystery object exo-planet hunters have discovered. They’ve concluded there’s something odd about a star some 1,000 light years from Earth. Some are arguing that it could be signs of an alien mega structure known as a Dyson’s Swarm. While unlikely, the very fact its being seriously considered is of interest (no scientists wants to be a member of the “I saw a flare” club, so they won’t announce this unless they’ve evidence to back that up). Its good to know there might be intelligent life in the universe…because there’s bugger all down her on Earth!

Trump’s minions

How can you not mention Trump, he’s like a sort of virus. However its more his minions that I want to talk about. Being a spokesman for the cult of Trump has got to be a pretty awful job (worth seeing Trevor Noah’s take on this here). Your boss says the most insane batshit crazy stuff, you have to try and row back on it, no he didn’t say that…..okay he did (after being confronted with a video of him saying it), but that’s not what he was trying to say….Only, for Trump to come out and reverse course again two minutes later. Its likely he’s killed the career of Rudy Giuliani, Chris Christie and Newt Gingrich.

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However, another tactic of Trump’s minions is to try and out Trump Trump. Take his chief Spokesperson Katrina Pierson. She’s an ex-Tea party candidate who proved to be a little too crazy even for the tea party (she’s wears a necklace….made from bullets!). She’s regularly gone beyond Trump in craziness, recently blaming the US invasion of Afghanistan on Obama (leaving TV journalists speechless). When the insanity of what she was suggesting was pointed out, she tried to blame her microphone (an excuse both she and Trump have used in the past…perhaps we should start a kickstarter fund for her and Trump to buy a hearing aid?).

And Trump has recently announced changes to his campaign team. His campaign chief Paul Manafort, under pressure over payments to him linked to Putin, has been pushed aside. Instead Trump’s brought in the boss of Breitbart (a man referred too as “the most dangerous political operator in America”) and allegedly also ex-Fox News chief Roger Ailes. Which incidentally does raise some awkward questions as to what was going on over at Fox News during that whole Trump v’s Megyn Kelly saga (keeping in mind, Ailes was Meygn’s boss).

One has to worry what sort of fruitcake’s Trump will dig up to form his cabinet, in the increasingly unlikely event of him being elected. Its no wonder some are arguing that Trump doesn’t actually want to be president, he only did it to further his TV career and is now deliberately sabotaging his own campaign.

Let me draw you a picture

One of the problems with climate change deniers is that they will waffle along, making spurious contrarian claims at such a rate one can’t debunk them all, or quote misleading information (often doctored or deliberately misinterpreted). In a recent debate in Australia Brian Cox managed to outwit climate denier and member of the neo-fascist “One Nation”, Malcolm Roberts, by bringing along a graph of the data that he claimed didn’t exist.

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Naturally this led Mr denier to claim the data, collected by NASA, was “doctored”, leading Brian Cox to question Roberts whether he also believed NASA hadn’t landed on the moon. While this might seem a bit of an unfair jibe, but as I’ve pointed out before the idea that dozens of agencies around the world, universities, NASA, ESA, the Met Office, the Tyndall centre, Scripp’s institute, the US military, etc. could all independently conduct studies (often relying on different data sets gathered in different ways) and reach the same conclusion. This leaves one only one of two alternatives, a) the evidence supporting climate change is rock solid, or b) all of these agencies worldwide are engaged in one massive global conspiracy, that makes faking the moon landing seem simple. So if you believe the climate data is doctored, then it is legitimate to question whether said individual is a tinfoil hat wearing conspiracy theorist.

Also deniers need to realise that they’ve been “found out”. The website “Skepticalscience.com” now has an easy to browse list of many prominent climate contrarians, listing their favoured climate myth and the information to debunk them. They also have a complete list of all climate denier myths along with the counter arguments, filed at a range of different levels (e.g. a simple quick explanation, or the hard scientific one). So in truth all you need to do to combat a climate denier these days is have a smart phone or I-pad and this website open on it.

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The Consequences of Brexit

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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?

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

Irony still not understood

The UK’s energy secretary Amber Rudd is showing signs that she possesses a superpower – a complete immunity to understanding the concepts of irony or hypocrisy.

AMBER RUDD ARRIVES FOR CABINET TODAY. PICTURE JEREMY SELWYN 09/06/2015

She has been complaining that councils are taking too long to make decisions on Fracking, suggesting that they are just delaying the inevitable and should just hurry up and make a decision within 16 weeks, threatening that the government will take the power to decide off councils who are seen to be dithering.

Of course this all but betrays the fact that the government’s plan is to railroad over local opposition to fracking and drive applications through, even when there’s a clear majority of locals against it. This is in stark contrast to their policy on wind energy where they are trying to halt onshore wind on the off chance it might spoil the view from ones hunting estate/golf course.

And councils will point out that the reason why its taking them so long is that they are presented with a room full of evidence that they then have to shift through. And with government austerity they can’t pay for the staff to process such applications any quicker. So if Amber Rudd wants things moved along, how about wandering down to number 11 and asking Osborne to pay for some extra staff for councils?

Also there’s a more worrying message. I would argue that fracking has gotten a bad name for itself because the Bush Adm. promotion of it created a massively under-regulated industry. It became a wild west and inevitably you ended up with some jack-asses who didn’t know what they were doing making a mess. If fracking was better regulated, this won’t be a problem, or so I am told by those in academic circles who are promoting it.

I recall a situation in Ireland where a major chemicals company moved into the area around my home town of Cork. The first thing they did before so much as turning a sod, was conducting an intensive environmental audit of the whole area. This was so that they knew everything in the environment (natural and unnatural) as well as every source of existing pollution. That way if anyone from the Irish environment agency, or some ambulance chasing lawyer, came along and accused them of putting this or that into the local ground water. They would have the evidence to prove, nope not us, that’s likely the fertiliser plant down the road.

You would think the fracking company’s would do the same and that the government would support such a policy. A careful environmental audit prior to any fracking, a few trial operations under intense environmental scrutiny, which would then serve to determine best practice for future operations, as well as establish what the actual environmental impact of fracking is likely to be. Instead Amber Rudd seems to favour the wild west approach that’s got fracking such a bad name state side.

And there is also further hypocrisy. The justification for cutting subsidies for renewables (or Green crap” as Cameron put it) has supposedly been to cut back on bills. This is despite the fact that renewable and energy efficiency subsidies cost about 6% of the average UK bill, about £50-75 per household per year. In the worse case scenario (had we stuck to the energy plans of past governments), this subsidy could have potentially doubled over the next decade. By contrast, the IMF have a report out that estimates that subsidies towards fossil fuels costs the UK about $635 per person (about £400, i.e. at least 4 times more than any subsidy to renewables would ever cost us!).

The reality is that the government does not give a damn about climate change, value for money for householders, nor do they care whether the lights go out. They are merely promoting the energy options that will most benefit certain vested interests in the nuclear and fossil fuels industry….which incidentally also includes one of Rudd’s own advisers I might add. What is more worrying is that much of the Tories anti-renewable agenda is simply ideological. An ideology which is putting the UK out of step with all but a handful of other loony right wing governments, and risking the country’s long term energy future.

Tories cuts to renewable subsidies – a new age of stupid

The Tories have followed through with their election threat to cut wind farm subsidies. However they have also proceeded to cut numerous other subsidies, including those given to solar energy and biomass as well as the Green deal (grants for improved insulation). The Green investment bank, one of the few progressive moves that came out of the previous lib dem/Tory government is also to be “part privatised”….which sounds suspiciously like “allowed to go bankrupt” (the only type of bank the Tories would let go to the wall!). All in all it looks like the UK’s energy policy is about to be plunged into a “dark age”.

The (pro-nuclear) environment secretary Ashley Rudd also misses the irony of the fact that she is throwing a massive subsidy the way of nuclear energy, to the tune of 68% of the cost of every watt of electricity they sell. Yet wind farms are also excluded from this “contracts for difference” nuclear slush fund subsidy scheme, despite offering better value for money. And this is on top of the fact that the UK DECC already spends 40% of its budget servicing nuclear waste, the costs of solar energy subsidies are but 6% of the total costs associated with energy subsidies.

All of this would be just plain bad news, if it weren’t for the fact that industry (and not just the renewables industry) are warning, that these measures send out a “chilling” message to business, something that will inevitably lead to job losses, if not a complete halt to work in terms of adding new power capacity. Just as we go into a winter with just 1.2% of spare capacity. It hardly seems to me a winning strategy to halt the production of the the very energy source that’s growing, while coal stations are shutting down, as they cannot compete with wind power and hydro.

And yet, as I’ve previously mentioned, while the Tories are quite keen to block wind farm applications, they also plan to remove any right of residences to object to fracking under their own homes, while throwing yet more subsidies the way of the fossil fuel industry. Something that is sure to put the UK at loggerheads with the rest of the EU, Obama (and inevitably Hilary, who appears to be trying to make climate change an election issue next year) and the Pope (of course Cameron and Osborne aren’t Catholic, so the Pope’s message was kind of lost on a pair of followers of Cthulhu ;D ).

Perhaps the worst of all of the cuts however, are those to the Green deal and the scrapping of building codes for low carbon homes. As I’ve previously mentioned on my energy blog the bulk of the UK’s energy consumption is spend heating and cooling homes, particularly the heating load over the winter months. This accounts for between 36-42% of the UK’s energy consumption and carbon emissions (depending on how you count it). By contrast, electricity is but 20% of the UK final energy consumption (a good portion of which is of course consumed heating and cooling buildings) while vehicles consume 25%.

So the easiest, simplest, cheapest and most painless way to cut carbon emissions, while in the long term cutting energy bills and improving the nation’s energy security, is to improve energy efficiency standards. Furthermore, I would argue that it is heating, not electricity, that is the energy source we need to protect. Give most people on a cold winter’s night the choice between losing electricity or losing heating and most will chose to do without electricity (trust me I’ve had many a cold bothy night and I know which of those two I’d choose!). Going without electricity isn’t fun, its inconvenient, but at least nobody’s going to die. Which is exactly what will happen to the UK with the loss of heating, we’re talking about grannies freezing to death and that sort of thing.

So there is ultimately no logic to this other than the more obvious fact that this Tory policy is driven purely by ideology. The same ideology that drives the right wing in the US Tea Party to deny climate change and oppose gay marriage. A belief that if you bury your head in the sand the lion will go away. That the solution to a look out screaming “iceberg” is to not have any look outs and blind the helmsmen. We are truly in the age of stupid.

Tales from the Climate wars

A couple of recent stories from the environmental movement might be of interest. This is particularly topical as there is a new documentary film out called “Merchants of Doubt” (based on the book of the same name) which exposes the tactics used by climate change deniers and their links to the fossil fuel industry. Indeed, its pointed out that many of the same tactics used by deniers are similar to those employed by Big Tobacco.

Mega drought risk threat confirmed by NASA
The effects of climate change will not be spread equally across the globe. Some areas might see some benefits, crops yields increasing for example, other regions will suffer some limited effects, but some parts of the globe are going to see very severe effects. Indeed whole areas will see dramatic and quite devastating climate shifts. One of the regions which it has long been suspected could see a major reversal of fortunes, is the Mid-Western states of the United States, where it is feared climate change could lead to droughts and desertification, turning the entire region from the bread and beef basket of America, into a mix of desert and steppe.

These fears are not idle scaremongering, but are based on the knowledge that in the past, when the world was only a few degrees warmer, most of the US Mid-West WAS a desert, so that it would return to that state after a spell of human induced planetary warming is hardly controversial. The region has also suffered from several persistent droughts in recent years. Anyway a new study by NASA scientists has taken data from past drought events and essentially rolled things forward to suggest that so-called “thousand year” drought events might become a little more common. Droughts which last for 30 to 50 years at a time are a possibility by the centuries end, with an 80% chance of a 35 year drought.

Naturally such events would dramatically alter the landscape, rendering a large chunk of America unable to support its current population. Imagine the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s magnified twenty fold. Ironically, of course the Mid-West happens to be the home of the Tea Party types who are sceptical of climate change and want big government off their back. Well be careful what you wish for. After all, how is the rest of America going to react to this? Throw government money at the problem….or suggest to the tea party types that they’ve made their bed, now lie in it!

Climate denier outed
The climate denier camp will frequently flag up the words of one particular climate scientist who takes a dissenting view of climate, while ignoring the other 97% of climate scientists who reach the opposite conclusion. Indeed, deniers are fast running out of material as the number of true “denier” climate scientists is becoming so rare, they should really talk to the UN about getting climate change deniers put on the endangered species list or something (my plan, fence of parts of Texas, capture the likes of Monckton and Co. with some sleeping darts, move them in and try to get them to breed :))).

Take for example John Christy, one of the few vaguely credible climate skeptic’s. However, he doesn’t deny that humans are influencing the climate, his bone of contention is to what degree we’re responsible, an issue referred too as “climate sensitivity”…..of course Fox News or the Daily Mail tend to gloss over such pesky points, but then again, it doesn’t take much to be a “climate expert” on Fox, merely being an accountant will do for them!…like you can be a “British terror expert” just by being a dim witted racist!

But I digress, anyway one of the problems with such trends is that more often than not, these climate change deniers get outed as being in receipt of large amounts of cash from some dubious sources. Of course, the right media is quick to airbrush such individuals out of history at this point.

Well they just managed to catch a whooper. The denier Willie Soon, whose name and credentials have been used to endorse many papers denying climate change, some of which have been used to support Republican friendly legislation, has just been outed. Documents reveal he’s been on the take for sometime and may have received as much as $1.2 million from several oil companies. This is a rather serious blow to the denier movement, as his name happens to endorse numerous papers by other deniers. Wipe out them from the scientific record and their ain’t a lot left.

And this comes on the back of the Berkeley Surface Temperature Study last year. Funded by the fracking barons the Koch brothers, who probably hoped they’d come with with yet more drivel for the denial machine. Instead its authors largely agreed with the conclusions of the IPCC. Talk about an own goal!

The Ice Age Myth cometh
An all too common myth you’ll hear from deniers is that “scientists predicted an Ice age back in the 1970’s”. Even the BBC seems to have been taken in by this one, as they’ve brought it up in a piece on climate change as recently as this very night.

The truth is that while the media did get taken in by a number of rather vocal scientists, the vast bulk of scientists and the weight of the science published, during this period, predicted not cooling but warming due to increasing carbon dioxide levels. The main reason for this misunderstanding was the issue of sulfur emissions, however further information on these, plus a more precise idea as to the triggering and ending of ice ages, quickly cast doubt on these predictions.

From 1965 to 1979 just seven peer reviewed papers predicted cooling, while 42 related to probable global warming. By 1975 the US National Academy of Sciences while, certainly keeping an open mind on things, had taken the view that global warming from carbon emissions seemed the more serious risk.

So if anything this “cooling” myth is proof of how a small but vocal minority of scientists can lead astray journalists looking for a sensationalist story.

Harvard Endowment campaign
There’s a campaign growing in Harvard university, driven by current and past students, for the universities massive $32 billion endowment fund, to exclude fossil fuel companies. As you can imagine this is being resisted by many of Harvard’s wealthier Alumni (the sort who bought their degree by their parents giving a large chuck of cash into that endowment fund!).

However it could set a long term trend that would be very damaging to fossil fuel companies, where like arms dealers, many refuse to lend or invest in them for ethical reasons. Its the sort of thing that could easily have a significant impact at bringing about serious action on climate change.

Abandoning the sinking ship
And perhaps recognising the consequences of stories such as the above, the PR firm Edelman has apparently ended its long running relationship with the American Petroleum Institute. This is probably driven by the fact that there is an increasing rift opening up within the capitalist world between the fossil fuel companies who want to ignore climate change. And other industries who recognise it as a threat to their very existence.

Take the insurance industry, they have been increasingly vocal about the risks posed by climate change. The insurance industry is seeing an alarming increase in claims from large storms and extreme weather events, which in turn is leading to both an increase in premium to offset this. They are also increasingly reluctant to insure people in certain high risk areas, forcing people living there to either go without insurance (wiping out the value of their home) or resort to federally funded schemes. As I’ve pointed out before, one could argue we’re already paying a defacto carbon tax in terms of the money needed to prop up these schemes.

Either way, it does show that the cracks are starting to grow and the climate denier bubble is at risk of bursting, as much for practical financial reasons as anything else.

Changing Weather patterns
We tend to consider climate change as some sort of long range threat that our children have to worry about. However the effects its having on global weather patterns are actually becoming all to obvious. While temperatures have been unusually cold in the North East of the US, by contrast Alaska, northern Canada and central Europe is unusually warm for this time of year. This is of course is no huge surprise, its well known that the Jet Streams play a key role in set weather patterns.

For example, remember those storms last year? Well, that is believed to be related to the movement of the jet stream from its normal path to instead wind up focused on the UK for several weeks in a row. And yes, you guessed it, this is one of the predicted consequences of climate change.

The money pit
I’m generally skeptical of nuclear power for a variety of practical reasons. For example the relatively slow rate at which reactors can realistically be built, which is but a fraction of the current build rate of renewables. So slow in fact, that its questionable whether new reactors can be built quickly enoough to replace the existing fleet as its retired. Then there’s the problem that nuclear is something of a one trick pony, good for baseload power, but not really much use for intermediate or peaking load power, or indeed the 80% of our energy use that isn’t electricity.

But above all else its the costs that have me worried. The capital costs to build new plants are colossal, far exceeding the numbers for any alternative and these construction costs are likely to be exceeded by the bill to clean up the mess afterwards.

And the problem with decommissioning is that the costs keep on being inflated upwards. The bill to clean up Sellafield has now risen to £53 billion, a £5 billion rise in just one year. This is merely one part of a total clean up bill for current decommissioned reactors that works out at an eye watering £70 billion. I recall a few years ago, having to tell off some environmentalist for claiming that the cost of decommissioning in the UK was over $100 billion. I told him that he was exaggerating a tad….well at current exchange rates its about $108 billion, so he was actually underestimating it! 88|

Suffice to say this is not small change. Such a hefty bill is going to represent a significant cost to the exchequer for years to come. Which raises the question as to whether its such a good idea to be doubling down on nuclear, with Hinkley C, a plant that will require a subsidy rate of about 68% per kWh (at present electricity prices) and that’s before we even start to consider decommissioning costs. Would it not seem more sensible to spend that money instead on something like energy efficiency programmes, greater use of CHP, or Tidal Power?

UKIP: the last 1,000 days

There were two programme on the box over the last week about UKIP, and its probably not the sort of press attention they are looking for. Firstly there was the Beeb’s “meet the UKIP’ers” in which a group of generally angry old pensioners, in a deprived ex-seaside town, wandered around blaming foreigners (rather than budget airlines) for their town’s demise, constantly complaining about how they had to watch what they say in case the media labelled them as “racist”. Well that’s never been a problem for me! If you’re worried about accidentally saying something racist, that’s probably because you ARE a racist! I mean one of these guys, the local UKIP chairman for Farage’s constituency, was ex-National Front. Yet he seemed oblivious to the fact that this either implied he was a racist, or a complete brain dead moron to join an organisation like that, hang around with them for several years, surrounded by skin heads, giving the nazi salute, and it didn’t occur to him that they were more racist than a Chelsea supporter :no:

The other programme was C4’s “UKIP: the first 100 days”, which portrayed the effects of a theoretical UKIP government’s first hundred days in office. Needless to say, UKIP weren’t happy, giving them yet something else to be angry about. However I’d argue that actually Channel 4 gave UKIP a pretty easy ride, they failed to tackle the many obvious hypocrisies and unworkable policies within UKIP’s manifesto. My fear for UKIP won’t be the 100 days, it would be the thousand days after that as they would likely prove to be the last 1,000 days of the United Kingdom.

For starters there’s UKIP’s plans to leave the EU. I had a go at the Catalonians a few months back (and how unworkable their proposed independence was) and I’ve pointed out how one of the flaws in the SNP’s plans, probably something that ultimately cost them the referendum, was their inability to answer basic questions about an independent Scotland. Well UKIP’s plans include many far worse howlers.

Trouble with Trade
So Farage wants independence from the EU, okay then and how long would that take to organise? You do realise you’ll need to negotiate a deal with the EU and that’s likely to take time, and I mean a good few years? If there’s one thing the EU doesn’t do and that’s work in a hurry.

As I’ve discussed before, the economic consequences of leaving Europe would be severe. The, LSE predicts a significant drop in GDP, even in the best case scenario. So there would be quite significant job losses, as many of the UK’s companies rely on integrated manufacturing processes, which means tight co-ordination of manufacturing across the EU and the wider world. Any sort of interruption to trade will inevitably make it very tempting to move factories across the channel (or up the M6, or across the Irish sea), not least given the lower wages in certain parts of Europe (or lower taxes in countries like Ireland).

A crucial requirement of UKIP’s plans, is to secure a free trade agreement with the rest of the EU and the EEA. However, that assumes the EU will grant such an agreement on terms UKIP would favour. And the likely terms of such a deal are already knownand they aren’t exactly UKIP friendly! They would require the UK agreeing to take on all EU law relating to trade and allowing free movement of people in support of commerce. In essence Nigel and his UKIP members presence in the EU parliament (and Britain’s veto over EU policy) will be replaced with a fax machine in Westminster, through which the EU will tell the UK parliament when to jump and how high. Regardless of your views on the EU, how could anyone consider this an improvement on the current status quo?

I repeatedly hear from UKIP types their prayer “the EU has more of a need for the UK than the UK needs the EU”. Well the economic figures say the opposite is true. Hence in these negotiations the EU will know it has the UK over a barrel and the UK will ultimately have little choice but to cave in. And even if it were true, the culture of the EU (which means they will not bow to threats from petty bigots, they made that mistake back in 1938 and we all know how that one worked out) prevents them from doing so. This was fairly obvious during the Eurozone crisis and recent events regarding Greece.

And it’s not just the EU UKIP would have to negotiate with but the US, China and numerous other countries, some of which have already warned the UK of the economic consequences in the event of Brexit. They would argue that the UK leaving the EU would be sufficiently disruptive to trade that it would invalidate any existing trade agreements. The US has already been very clear that they will exclude the UK from existing trade treaties if the UK leaves the EU. Inevitably the UK will not get the same sort of deal it got with the rest of the EU backing it up. After all, the Chinese can’t play brinkmanship with the EU and risk being shut out of the world’s largest economy. But they can certainly afford to do so with UK, particularly when they know the UK can’t afford to leave the room without a deal.

In the meantime the UK economy will be in limbo land. Inevitably investors will shuffle their cash off somewhere safe (Eurozone, US treasury bonds offshore tax havens, gold bullion, canned food ;D), investment will grind to a halt as businesses wait to see what happens next. In short economic paralysis. Inevitably interest rates will go up as the UK’s credit rating is cut and inflation will rise.

This will mean in simple terms, that the interest on your mortgage will go up, as will the cost of living. But wages or the interest and returns paid to shareholders will not increase by nearly as much. This would be particularly bad news for anyone who has retired and is on a fixed income…So if C4 were being genuinely alarmist perhaps they could have shown UK pensioners living off food scavenged from bins and burning furniture for heat.

Government by chaos
Of course we have to factor in the UKIP factor to any negotiations. As UKIP have shown by their past behaviour, government by them would be chaotic, disorganised and gaffe prone, with much dictatorial micro-management by Farage. Consider how UKIP treats its own when they step out of line. Rather than any sort of enquiry or due process, there’s simply a dictate from HQ (usually by e-mail or text!) and the individual in question is pretty much taken out back and shot. There is for example, the jostling and backstabbing regarding party candidate selection. Or how Farage sacked the entire leadership of UKIP Scotland (including climate denier and former deputy leader Chris Monckton) when they failed to toe the party line and failed to perform.

Now all well and good this happening with a party whose basically in the Monster Raving loony category, but imagine it continues when some of them are minsters. The effect on any negotiations will be to drag things out, if not convenience other countries that the British have lost the plot, walking away from any trade deal until someone sane is in power. Naturally the effect of such chaotic and inept national leadership would have a severe effect on the stock market and the UK’s credit rating. This is why tin-pot dictatorships in Africa can’t get a loan, because investors never know whose going to be in charge when the time comes for the loan to be paid off!

Brexit…or Englandexit?
Then there’s the possible breakup of the UK to worry about , how are UKIP going to handle that? The SNP have pointed out that Scotland would have to sign off on an EU exit, with similar noises coming out of Wales. This would likely mean either giving these region’s sufficient economic independence via Devo Max that they could effectively become an EU member themselves in all but name (which would of course render much of UKIP plans moot). Or fight with Hollyrood (and Cardiff) and trigger another independence referendum or two.

And what about Northern Ireland? The Good Friday agreement all but assumes an open border between the Republic and the North. Getting around that would mean negotiating with Sinn Fein, and we already know what their terms will be – a referendum on reunification of Ireland. While polls do suggest a No, I suspect if such a poll were put in the context of an EU exit (i.e. you’re expecting the non-sectarian voters who are currently saying No to maintain the status quo, to vote in favour of a tax increase, a cut in services and higher living costs just to stay part of the UK) there’s at least a 50/50 chance of a Yes vote. How are UKIP going to deal with that one? And resisting it would probably mean reigniting the troubles.

It is for these reasons that I consider the greatest threat to the “United” part of the UK is UKIP. The UK self-destruction party would seem a better name for them.

Labour shortages
Then there’s the labour shortages, its a pity this programme didn’t point out that if you arrest lots of migrant workers, well that does kind of mean they won’t be able to do their jobs. The whole reason why migrants are over here, is because there are labour shortages within the UK and thus jobs available and not enough people with the necessary skills to do them. Immigration from the Eurozone represents a net boost of £5-10 billion, which rises to £25 billion if we include the whole of the EEA.

Now its all well and good pointing to the many unemployed in jobs centres, but that’s not much help to an employer who needs a few hundred skilled brick layers or the NHS which needs doctors and dentists, or in my field where we need to bring in academics from abroad with expertise in a particular narrow field. I might add that this is why I support labour’s plans to encourage apprenticeships, as its this “reskilling” that’s a far more effective way of reducing labour shortages and unemployment, compared to beating up Romanian and Chinese immigrants.

Also, more often than not, the problem in the UK is there are jobs available, just not were people currently live. The main reason why immigrants are taking them is they are prepared to move and many British aren’t (for various reasons). This is why UKIP tends to poll well in deprived areas with relatively little migration, such as ex-resort towns in the South east.

So chuck people out of the country and suddenly you have crops rotting in fields with nobody to harvest them, engineering projects put on hold due to a lack of staff and NHS waiting lists increasing due to a lack of nurses and health care workers. And as I’ve discussed before there is a certain hypocrisy towards claiming to be right wing and in favour of free markets (as UKIP do) and then equally want to impose a series of massive trade barriers that will simply make it impossible for some British businesses to function.

Indeed the one set of jobs the programme showed UKIP, hiring ex-soldiers as immigration enforcement officers (which is based on actual UKIP policy), does actually show the nativity of the party. Most ex-army types I know would probably be insulted at the thought that the only thing they are good for is breaking down doors and beating up minorities. Many of them took the time in the army to develop various “skills”, be it management skills, IT, repairing equipment (electronics, mechanics), expert driving skills, etc. They have therefore gone on to get jobs in a variety of different roles (emergency vehicle drivers, health care, IT, engineering, etc.) and would probably be unsuited to this sort of a job (and probably not very fit anymore!).

Power cuts
And if you think I’m being alarmists, well I haven’t even started talking about the power cuts yet. The UK, and in particular England, is heavily dependant on imported energy. Half of the UK’s energy is now imported and the main source of domestic energy production is of course within Scotland, which might well be a separate country after Brexit. About 7% of the UK’s electricity is imported, mostly from European nuclear and renewable energy plants, which is crucial to making up the growing winter gap in UK generating capacity. Scotland is responsible for about 15% of UK electricity, as well as supplying most of the gas, either domestic gas or gas imports from Norway (the other major source of Gas coming in via pipelines from Europe). So the consequences of the UK leaving the EU would be to hand England’s energy fate into the hands of…well Scotland and the rest of the EU.

And while the other parties have been at least trying to pretend they are angry with the big six energy suppliers over the high cost of bills and lack of progress on the construction of new power stations, UKIP’s spokesman on this issue has suggested he is “sympathetic” to the power companies.

Again, it suggest enormous naivety and ignorance of the issue on the part of UKIP. They seem to believe that it is the fault of over-regulation by the government and that the only reason why the power companies build wind farms is to claim subsidy money. However if anything the opposite is true. Subsidies represent only a small portion of the lifetime costs of renewables (about 13%, so 87% of the cost of a wind farm comes from the energy company). The reason why power companies have been building them is because they represent a hedge against future rises in gas prices, with the subsidy intended to sweeten the deal slightly to hedge against drop in gas prices, such as has been the case recently. And most people would argue the reason for high bills is down to a lack of any effort to reign in the power companies, with Ofgem basically asleep at the wheel :zz:

The problem with energy is that it is a long term problem requiring long term solutions. It takes decades to build a power station or develop a new gas field and nobody in the right mind will finance such projects unless they are sure that the government isn’t going to change policy and render it unviable. The main political parties have been very good at making well meaning speeches committing to renewables, fracking, nuclear or whatever is the current flavour of the month, but then basically kicking the can down the road and not implementing the policies to bring about long term investment in the industry, hence the alarming drops in the UK’s generating capacity.

UKIP’s policy of taking their hands off the wheel and then letting the “magic of the market” solve everything would likely just lead to the big six giving us all a right royal shafting, building even less power infrastructure (after all, as ENRON showed in California, an artificial shortage means their profits go up) until the resulting blackouts get s embarrassing and disruptive that they force government intervention.

But any attempt by the state to solve such a problem would be problematic. While I’ve heard noises out of UKIP proposing to copy France’s policy on nuclear for example (which is again somewhat at odds with their supposed free market values), one has point out the decades that would take to implement, the massive numbers of foreign workers who would have to be allowed in to work on these projects (destroying any attempt at immigration quota’s) and the hundreds of billions it would cost. And whose going to pay those costs? The whole reason why Hinkley C is being subsidised (to the tune of 68% of the cost of every kWh) is because the markets refused to lend money to the project….and that was in an environment where gas prices were high and credit cheap. Farage will be trying to do the same when gas prices (and renewable prices) are low and credit expensive. How do you think that’s going to work out? So in short, vote UKIP…then invest in candle makers!

Again, I’m not saying the UK isn’t entitled to have a referendum on leaving the EU, but at the risk of sounding like Alastair Darling, independence would be for life not just for Christmas. And I don’t think many UKIP supporters realise that. The UK would be paying a huge price for what ultimately will turn out to be a futile and meaningless gesture that will in all likelihood have the completely opposite effect that they intended.

The hypocrisy of the UK’s climate policy

As I’ve pointed out before, there is huge hypocrisy when it comes to the UK’s energy policy. Like many vaguely sane countries, the UK is legally committed to taking action on climate change. Laws have been passed in parliament and the UK has signed into EU legislation which sets targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The UK has also signed international agreements, with legally binding targets.

However despite all this, the UK government is intent on promoting fracking for yet more fossil fuels, even though falling oil and gas prices hardly give any obvious justification for this policy. This in itself would be bad enough, if it weren’t for the fact that the Government have been actively working against the deployment of renewables, as well as energy saving measures which would allow people to lower their energy bills while at the same time cutting carbon emissions.

Take for example the town of Balcombe at the centre of the Fracking debate. Tory plans to change the tax laws governing community owned energy schemes threaten to undermine the attempts by locals to build community funded (and locally supported) renewables….while down the road they attempt to steamroller over local opposition to fracking, even thought the are basically reneging on multiple international treaties and violating the law of the land to do so. Needless to say it makes a mockery of Cameron’s “big society” propaganda.

And of course, this promotion of shale gas continues despite falling fossil fuel prices, which likely to led to cirb the ethausiasm of many companies for fracking. The reasons for this price drop are I fear not fully understood. Contrary to media reports, the drops in price are almost certainly not related to fracking or other unconventional sources, as these only represent a tiny fraction of global output (a little less than 5% in fact). Changes in supply and demand factors and improvements in EOR (Enhanced Oil Recovery) seem a more likely explanation.

However the drop in prices has, along with expanding renewable energy, led to much lower wholesale electricity costs. Although despite this there have been few if any significant drops in the price of electricity by the major producers. Consumer magazine Which? recently estimated (prior to recent wholesale price drops) bills could be on average £145 cheaper.

So you may ask, where is the regulator in all this, after all Ofgem are legally required to take action at this point. And what has been Ofgem’s response? Suggest that people should save energy by eating a packed lunch? And what next? If a pensioner is sure they are going to die of hypothermia this winter will they suggest that they should burn the house down to save on the energy needed to defrost your frozen corpse?

One is quickly forced to the conclusion that the Tory party is beholden to their cronies within the energy industry. Community owned energy schemes were central to the large increases in renewable energy use in Germany, as well as threatening to break the monopoly power of the the big six energy firms. So its obvious why the Tories are so anxious to kill them off, lest more people work out there are alternatives to taking a shafting every quarter from you’re utility. Promoting fracking has little to do with lowering bills and everything to do with some back door cash handouts and tax breaks. In much the same way that Cameron’s assault on “Green crap” had nothing to do with lowering bills and everything to do to helping the energy giants pocket yet more cash.

And the massive subsidy to nuclear, which as I recently pointed out on my energy blog, works out at a subsidy rate per kWh of roughly 68% over the 50 year lifetime of the plant, versus a subsidy rate of at most 13% for wind (over 10 years) and 25% for solar (over 35 years), is clearly so blatantly excessive its true purpose is merely to provide a slush fund to fuel the profits of many energy firms, many of them foreign owned I might add, for decades to come.

Let us be clear, this is corruption of the highest level, little different from G. W. Bush and his war for oil. Climate change after all, will have a dramatic impact on some parts of the world, wiping out certain low lying countries. The only difference is that they’ve found a way to do it without having to invade a foreign country first and getting us to foot the bill!

Across the pond

A couple of stories from across the pond in America have caught my eye recently, the sort that may have been overlooked by the media over here…

US Cadbury ban
Ex-pats and other fans of UK made Cadbury’s chocolate products are currently stockpiling large quantities of their favourites, as a ban on the British made stuff is about to come into effect to prevent “brand confusion”…or perhaps because the leading US firm Hershey doesn’t want to face up to any competition.

You may enquire, don’t we have a free trade agreement with the US? How can they just ban stuff like this? Well because there are loopholes in such trade agreements covering issues such as health regulations, corporate branding and environmental legislation. And suffice to say, there ain’t a lot a lawyer needs to drive a bus thro such rules.

If you think they’re being a bit hard on Cadbury, try buying Haggis in the US or Marmite and Irn Bru! It is literally easier to buy crack cocaine in parts of the US, given the consequences of US government regulations. Yes, to the yanks an AR-15 or uzi can be safely handled by a 11 year old, but letting people eat offal or drink a can of ginger is just downright reckless endangerment. :??:

Americans like to pride themselves on being the land of free enterprise and small government, however the reality is that they are nothing of the sort. Many of the same Tea party type who wave their “get big government off my back” placards will be the first to start whinging if foreign or out of state competition threatens their jobs. Congressmen in Washington therefore come under enormous pressure, both from well funded lobby groups for one industry or another, as well as from their constituents, to try and protect jobs within their state and free markets be damned.

Good examples include the US steel industry, the debacle over the KC-X tanker aircraft (where a European aircraft beat a US designed one to the contract, prompting congress to restart the competition & re-write the rules to make sure the “right” aircraft won), generous farm subsidies (which makes it almost impossible for other food producers in Africa or South America to compete on grain prices) as well as the Medicare budget (a massive free subsidy to big pharma) as well as numerous subsidies to the US fossil fuels and nuclear industry.

And if you think that Congress is bad, the individual US states are even worse. Take for example, the recent banning of sales of electric cars from Tesla Motors in several US states. In part this was due to the pathological hatred of many Republicans for anything green, but mostly it was done to protect vested interests in the established auto industry, as well as jobs in local auto dealers from an upstart company like Tesla.

These policies are so engrained in the US political system it can lead to all sorts of laughable absurdities. Such as arch-climate denier Rick Perry talking up the success of Texas wind farms in reducing America’s carbon footprint (Texas has more wind farms now than any other US state). The rest of the GOP seems to develop selective deafness whenever this comes up. Same as the Democrats will ignore one of their own from a coal mining state voting against the president on any climate change issue. As its assumed that he will do whatever needed to protect local jobs, regardless of the implications for party politics….or the polar bears!

I’m reminded of the situation in Nigeria, whereby corruption is so endemic within the country, its simply assumed that any politician who wins office will “share the cake”, i.e. reward his friends and family with cosy jobs and kick backs. A politician who actually tried to tackle the country’s corruption would likely be in for a very short stint in power and likely be ostracised by his community afterwards.

Anyway, I bring this matter up as it does represent one of the dangers with UKIP and the Tory proposals for leaving the EU. Crucial to such a move would be securing a free trade agreement with both the EU and most of the rest of the world (as existing treaties with other trading blocs would have to be renegotiated). And much like the SNP seemed to assume they were entitled by right to sharing Sterling, there is no guarantee whatsoever that UKIP will get what they want here.

But as events in the US show, even if they get a free trade agreement with the EU, it will be all too tempting in many situations for politicians, either side of the channel, with jobs in their district under threat, to try and find loopholes in any such trade agreements allowing them to restrict the sale of UK goods (or visa versa).

As one libertarian blogger points out (hardly the sort of person we can accuse of pro-EU basis) if a company ships its goods across the channel and the French ceases them (for a perfectly legal custom’s inspection….which they are then very slow to complete), what is he supposed to do in a Brexit situation? Well at the moment he could go directly to the EU or failing that his MEP…hoping and praying that MEP isn’t a member of UKIP, as they aren’t terribly active in their jobs. With the UK outside of the EU, it has to be raised with the department of Trade, who talk to Foreign affairs, who would then talk to the EU (possibly via the WTO), who would then pass it down the food chain the other side. And knowing how governments work that means it would be six months to year before anything gets done (in the best of circumstances), by which stage most SME’s will have run out of operating capital and gone bust, rendering the whole argument moot.

So anyone in UKIP deluded enough to think that leaving the EU won’t have a negative economic impact (for some crazy reason some seem to think it will have a positive impact!) is living in cloud cuckoo land.

Climate liabilities
Its becoming increasingly difficult for climate change deniers to counter the weight of evidence in support of anthropogenic climate change. Increasingly deniers are forced into relying on crack pot conspiracy theories that often accuse scientists of being part of some giant global conspiracy. When its pointed out to them that such claims are libellous, they promptly retreat behind the bastion of free speech, that they are usually very quick to deny their critics, on issues such as gun control for example.

However, a court in Canada has now ruled that no, this isn’t a free speech issue, such comments are libellous and has awarded a cash settlement to a climate scientist who had been accused by a tabloid of having “a warmist agenda”. This case does have much wider implications, notably as a much larger and more significant case is looming between Micheal Mann and the Republican CEI and National Review.

It is perhaps worth reflecting on the fact that what shut the tobacco lobby up wasn’t government legislation, but a constant barrage of expensive litigation. Could we be seeing the start of the same for the fossil fuel lobby?

US Measles epidemic
There’s a measles epidemic ongoing in the US. While infection rates are low so far (as in “only” a few thousand) but one of the problems with this disease is its highly contagious nature and hence its ability to spread like wildfire. This is having all sorts of implications, with health advice to avoid bringing kids to parks, public areas or daycare centres.

And just so we’re clear, measles is not a harmless disease. While many of those reading this blog, who got measles before vaccines were widely available, may not have suffered serious ill effects. Keep in mind that globally, measles kills tens of thousands per year. So the advice would be, vaccinate you’re kids and get vaccinated yourself if you’re not sure you’ve had it.

Who do we have to blame for this? Well, all of these tinfoil hat wearing anti-vaccine types…who seem to have a habit of also being climate change deniers as well as believing in other crack pot conspiracies (MH17, 9/11 was a setup, Kennedy, etc.). Are they willing to admit their error? well no, of course not!

Ultimately one could argue the real disease here isn’t measles, but a condition called Republican Mental Lock-in Syndrome :crazy:. Whereby, those on the right can’t admit that they are wrong about anything, ever. Even when confronted with overwhelming evidence to the contrary, they will instead perform acts of extreme mental gymnastics to concoct all sorts of outlandish conspiracy theories to satisfy their ego.

Scary Nukes
An ongoing story that’s some elements of the US media have been ignoring is the state of America’s nuclear weapons. Crippled by funding and obsolete and maintenance hungry equipment, questions are being raised as to the safety and reliability surrounding America’s nuclear arsenal. Some stories talk of blast proof doors propped open with a crow bar (as the mechanism has failed), of missile units with only one set of tools (so they can only do maintenance on one missile at a time….they have to Fed Ex the tool kit around and hope it doesn’t get lost in the post when a war starts!). Oh, and apparently the computers that arm the missile rely on floppy disks….and I mean the really big old floppies! 88|

To make matters worse, morale within the US nuclear weapons program is very low. :zz: Largely because if you want to kill your career as a US officer, the surest way to do so, is to go on Armageddon watch. While you’re fellow officers are getting that all important front line experience, or learning new skills (useful in their future career outside the military), you’re stuck in a bunker underneath hicksville, playing solitaire while surrounded by equipment that should have become museum exhibits many decades ago. Indeed one has to question whether its such a good idea to put clinically depressed officers in charge of the nukes? |-|

Either way, so long as country’s like the US choose to have nuclear weapons, they have an obligation to maintain these weapons in a safe and secure manner. And personally I’d question the point of spending hundreds of billions on a weapon system you don’t plan on ever using. And if the US, or other superpowers, are unable to maintain their stockpiles then they have invalidated their right retain them.

The trouble with liberty

The traditional political compass for most people follows a main sequence in which the more right wing you become, the more authoritarian you are likely to be. And the more to the left you are, the more in favour of personal freedoms you are likely to be. This is something of a generalisation, as there are exceptions. Libertarians for example, tend to be to the right, but also fairly liberal in terms of both economics and personal freedoms.

More recently a lot of those on the right, often cynical of conventional party politics, have been jumping on the band wagon and declaring themselves to be Libertarians, or anarcho-capitalism or words to that effect. This is particularly true of those in the US Tea party or UKIP (the UK tea party).

However, as I will explore in this article, lots of what Libertarians believe isn’t terribly palatable to most on the political right. And if you genuinely are a libertarian, the worst thing you could possibly do is vote for the Tea Party or UKIP. For as we will see, if anything, UKIP and the Tea Party are actually the ideological enemies of libertarianism.

Immigration
Let me illustrate this point by looking at the issue of immigration. UKIP campaigned in the last election principally on the immigration issue, claiming that the EU want’s “unlimited immigration” into the UK, while UKIP plan to cap this. Firstly, this is not true, the EU is in favour of “softer” options to contain immigration (both internally or from outside the EU), as recent court rulings make clear.

But more importantly if you are a libertarian your political philosophy DOES endorse unlimited migration with even the restrictions we already have in place being scrapped. Think about it, what UKIP propose is to have a guy at the border in a uniform checking people’s ID’s and asking them their business and going through their things. That what someone on the political right would call “authoritarianism“. Meanwhile we have a bunch of faceless bureaucrats sitting in an office in London deciding who can come in and where they can live and what jobs they can get…or as Sarah Palin would put it “central planning“.

And of course all of these border guards and bureaucrats will need to be paid. One of my criticisms of the Tory policy on immigration is that they seem to want a harsh immigration policy, but not pay for the staff to enforce it. With the result that the UK border is as leaky as a sieve. Obviously UKIP’s policy would need a small army to enforce, and that would presumably mean a rise in taxes to pay for it.

And the libertarian position on migration is backed up by the Austrian school of Economics. This would take the view that restricting immigration represents the imposition of a trade barrier. Inevitably, proponents of this theory will argue, markets will simply find a way around such a trade barrier. Either by companies outside of the U,K with the power to recruit more freely, simply out-competing UK companies (who go bust). Or UK companies, tired of not being able to hire the staff they’d like, will move operations overseas.

In essence its not “foreigners coming over here and stealing our jobs” we need to worry about but “foreigners staying at home and stealing our jobs”. Far more of the UK’s jobs have gone to Asian manufacturing centres than have been lost to migrants coming into the UK. And most of the job losses to migrants have been low-paid, unskilled jobs, while the manufacturing and engineering jobs lost to foreign industry have tended to be higher quality and better paid positions.

This is why UKIP’s original founder, economics professor Alan Sked (yes really!), was very careful when founding the party to include clauses in its manifesto making clear that UKIP would not be anti-immigrant…of course once Farage (who was once paling around with Enoch Powell) came along, those clauses all went. Hence why Prof Sked dismisses Farage as “a dim witted racist” and UKIP as a party of “fruitcakes and bigots”.

I would idly note that I am not arguing for unlimited immigration, nor is the EU (as noted). Indeed those on the left would point out that the best way of protecting UK jobs is by making people in other parts of Europe (and beyond) wealthier, as that pushes up salaries abroad, makes people less willing to move and increases the competitiveness of British business. And it also succeeds in creating lots of new customers to shift our wares onto. Hence the importance of projects such as the EU.

After all, Ireland’s principle export a few decades ago was people, mostly to Britain. While we still have some migration abroad, its but a trickle of what it used to be back in the bad old days and Ireland is now a net receiver of migrants.

Those on the left would also point out that it was the destabilising nature of laissez-faire economics that caused the economic crisis in the first place (and thus created problems with mass immigration) and a return to a more regulated form of capitalism would probably prevent such crises in the future.

But I digress. The point is clear however, if you are truly Libertarian your position on migration cannot be more different than those of UKIP or the Tea Party. Voting for UKIP and endorsing their core position on migration is a bit like a devout Catholic complaining about how some guy in Rome is head of the church, and voting for Ian Paisley!

Not you’re Granny’s form of socialism
UKIP also wants to stop migrants, even those who have been here for years and paying taxes, from using the NHS or claiming benefits. Or to put that another way, they want to allow some lazy thieving chav to live on benefits, purely because his mother chose to drop him on British soil, while some hard working, tax paying migrant is denied the right to services his taxes pay for.

It is for these reasons that I argue that a more correct interpretation of UKIP (or the Tea Party) is not that of a liberal free market party, but it would be better to describe them as a party of “national socialists” or “third positionism”, as its sometimes called.

The term “National socialist” tends to be provocative, as those on the right get angry when they realise that you’ve successfully outed them, while those on the left point out that the sort of “socialism” we’re talking about isn’t exactly the sort you’re Granny (or Barbara Castle!) would recognise. I would point out that the term was coined by those on the centre right who tend regard any form of state intervention as “socialism”.

And UKIP’s recent advertising campaign in which Farage implores people to join his “people’s army” hardly helps. He seems to be unaware that the term “people’s army” has been applied to many other forces in history. Notably the German Volkstrum (a force of fanatical old men and Hitler youth members who committed various atrocities defending an already beaten Germany in the dying days of WWII, as portrayed in the recent film “Fury”), the East German People’s army, or hastily organised units of the Red Army who were sent off to attack the nazi’s in mass infantry attacks, often unarmed, by Stalin’s police state (incidentally, while these tactics are accurately portrayed in the film “enemy at the gates” the Russian’s rarely used these tactics by 1942). The result is something of an unfortunate metaphor with UKIP encouraging the public to become the equivalent of political cannon fodder for a pointless and ill-conceived cause.

Either way, the fact is that UKIP and the Tea party are anything but libertarian, they are in fact the opposite of this. As we will see they are in truth a party of authoritarian big government, central planning and more than a hint of nationalistic xenophobia.

The EU
Of course UKIP’s core policy is to withdraw from the EU because they “make up lots of laws”. However this is but one of many right wing myths about Europe. Actually, a more correct interpretation of the EU is that its job has been to harmonise laws and break down trade barriers. This is hardly surprising when you realise that for most of its history the people in the driving seat in the EU have tended to be centre-right (or occasionally centrists) politicians of the neo-liberal persuasion.

This is also why historically most of the opposition to the EU has, until relatively recently, come from the political left. The last time the UK voted on the EU it was darling of the Left Tony Benn who led the No campaign and Margaret Thatcher campaigning in favour of a Yes vote.

Certainly in a Libertarian world, the EU would be a very different beast. Some interesting articles by UK libertarians on this matter here and here weight the matter up from a truly libertarian perspective. They would in all probability prefer something more akin to the old EEC, before its democratic reforms. However libertarians would not be in favour of throwing the baby out with the bath water. As the reality is no organisation in the history of economics has done more to liberalise trade than the EU.

Grand theft Jesus
And as we go through the right wing play book of policies we see a similar trend. Take religion. Quite a few on the right in the US want to end the traditional break between church and state, arguing that the founding fathers didn’t really mean it when they put freedom of religion in the constitution. Well in a libertarian world there would be no link whatsoever between church and state, as this would constitute a trade barrier and a restriction on personal freedoms. More importantly, if the church is allowed to interfere with the state, then as history shows us that the state will interfere with the church.

In a Libertarian world, even the links we currently have between church and state would vanish. Links we have? Yes, I’m referring to the 52 days off a year for the Christian holy day and another 52 for the Jewish Sabbath, otherwise known as “the weekend”, plus a couple more off at Christmas and Easter. This represents a significant cost and inconvenience to businesses (just ask any shop owner!) as well as anyone who isn’t a Christian (you should see the look on some of my foreign student’s faces when they learn the uni will be closed and locked up and I’ll be on holiday for two weeks prior to the January exams!). So like I said in a libertarian world, such an arrangement could not survive.

Not so pro-life
To take another favourite of the US right wing, the death penalty. I always find it odd how they can be pro-life for the unborn, yet pro-death penalty for the already born. You cannot get any more authoritarian than allowing the state to legally kill its own citizens. And history tells us that authoritarian regimes have abused such laws to cling onto power (just look at recent events in Egypt). Hence why so many politicians in Europe, be they of the right or left wing, are all opposed to the death penalty, as they understand that this is the greasy edge of a very slippery slope.

Drug wars
And many on the right also favour harsh penalties for drug pushers. Again many want to put drug dealers to death. Unfortunately this is the polar opposite of libertarianism. They would argue that what you chose to put in your body is your decision, and the state “authorities” have no right to tell you otherwise. In a libertarian world ALL drugs would be legal.

And as I discussed in a prior post, the libertarians may have a point here, for the war on drugs is a war we are losing. Not because penalties aren’t harsh enough, or we’re not spending enough money. But because the drug laws and classifications don’t make any sense (which means they get ignored by many users) and anti-drug policies ignore market capitalist principles of supply and demand (you make drugs harder to come by, they become more valuable, so valuable that someone will take the risk of trying to import it in order to profit from the trade).

I would note that I’m not arguing in favour of an end to drug prohibition. I’d instead point to the success of countries such as the Netherlands and Portugal where decriminalisation of drugs and treating drug abuse as a medical condition has led to a drop in users and a drop in crime related to drugs. But again, if you are truly Libertarian you have no choice, you have to favour drug legalisation. This is an integral part of such a political philosophy.

Power…to the government!
And we could play this game all day, but suffice to say go through the Tea Party or UKIP manifesto line by line and you’re going to be throwing out policy after policy as incompatible with traditional libertarian thinking, or indeed traditional centre right ideology. Take for example UKIP’s policy on energy. UKIP want to swap to nuclear power while tearing down wind farms.

However, as I discussed in a prior post, the fact is that the power industry favours wind energy over nuclear, as far as low carbon energy options are concerned. This is despite the fact that the subsidies for wind power aren’t as generous as anything offered for nuclear. Indeed their reasoning has little to do with subsidies. As the power companies see it, the financial risks of nuclear are too great. Hence they prefer a mix of natural gas with as much wind, solar and other renewables as possible squeezed on around this.

So the only way Farage could have his way would be more “central planning”, i.e. forcing his policy through by effectively nationalising the entire energy industry. This is something the pro-nuclear Tories have resisted for what should be obvious ideological reasons and represent a far more interventionist approach than even those proposed by Miliband and labour.

The UK lacks the capability to actually build a modern reactor, hence the involvement of French and Chinese (state owned) companies down in Somerset. So UKIP would have to found some sort of nationalised industrial corporation to design and build the reactors, much like France’s Areva (a state owned French company who built the French nuclear reactors). And all this would have to be funded by public money. Keeping in mind the rate of building UKIP talk about would amount to tens of billions of expenditure on nuclear per year for several decades! So we’re not talking small change here.

And shale gas, another Tory/UKIP favourite, would require some sort of government support to fully exploit, particularly given recent price fluctuations and uncertainties. Coal too, as I discussed recently on my energy blog, wouldn’t be much better. Again in both cases more “central planning”, not least because both industries would struggle to compete against cheap imported gas and coal from overseas.

So the fact is that UKIP’s energy policy is anything but Libertarian friendly. It is in fact to the left of the labour party.

Falling Flat
About the only vaguely Libertarian policy you will find in the UKIP manifesto is a commitment to a flat tax, no doubt an entity left over from the Kilroy-Silk days.

However, a flat tax would only really work in a state where the government is reasonably small. This is why the only countries with a flat tax tend to be small tax havens with a relatively low rate of government spending (as they don’t have to maintain the large public sectors or expensive assets that states like the UK have to operate).

As we have discussed, a UKIP or Tea Party government would be anything but small. Hence a flat tax would mean a massive tax hike for the majority and a huge tax cut for the well off. Hardly a policy anyone, other than the very wealthy (a number of whom fund the Tea Party and UKIP), would want to see implemented.

Breaking the code
So all in all we have to conclude that UKIP and the Tea Party are not libertarian, not by any stretch of the imagination. Those on the right who go around calling themselves libertarians need to understand what they are signing up for, because it’s not perhaps the sort of polices most of them want anything to do with. And actual libertarians need to realise they’ve made some strange bed fellows.

It should also be remembering that racists and neo-nazi’s have a habit of talking in code. As they are all too aware how politically incorrect (if not illegal!) their views can be if aired in public. So keep in mind that it’s possible when some call themselves “libertarian” or a “right wing anarchist” on their blog, this is just code word for something else, which those who read certain blogs and take such stuff seriously will understand and decode. Of course it has to be hugely frustrating to those who actually ARE libertarians as they find themselves with some not entirely nice bed fellows.

But needless to say if you do believe in libertarianism then the one party you shouldn’t vote in the UK is UKIP. You need to find another party (such as the New Deal party founded recently by UKIP founder Alan Sked) who genuinely believes in libertarian ideals….or perhaps re-evaluate your politic views.

Cameron’s wind bagging hypocrisy

The Tories have let slip that indeed they will oppose onshore wind farms after the next election, cutting subsidies and encouraging councils to block such developments. Cameron was explaining this decision on the basis that after a decade or two of subsidy, surely wind power should be able to get by without subsidy?

A fair point I’ll agree, but equally he is proposing to provide a massive subsidy to nuclear power…an industry that has been dependant on massive government subsidy for the best part of 50 years (not just to building nuclear plants, but also costs such as the £73 billion and counting to dispose of nuclear waste). If subsidies to renewables are to be cut, then surely we should cut all nuclear subsidies too? Won’t that be the free market response?

Also its worth remembering that part of the point of subsidies to renewables (or nuclear for that matter) is to get around the fact that fossil fuel use is also in receipt of significant subsidies. Indeed as I discuss on my energy blog, the grand total for these actually exceeds renewable and energy conservation related subsidies by a significant margin. So will he be cutting those subsidies too?…noting that it includes things like the winter heating allowance (that will make him popular!).

Indeed Cameron, who is keen on fracking for shale gas, has been talking about effectively subsidising this process (by bribing cash strapped councils into accepting such schemes), so clearly those subsidies and incentives towards shale gas will have to be dropped too.

And let’s not even begin to consider the subsidy that involves dumping climate changing gas into the atmosphere free of charge, even though it is the state who usually gets stiffed with the bill for cleaning up the mess after a storm. The fact is subsidising renewables has always been part of a messy compromise to get around the fact that governments are reluctant to make the public pay the true cost of our fossil fuel use.

And the political reality, as Chris Huhme discussed recently, is that despite whatever Cameron says the real thing driving this policy is Tory election fears regarding UKIP, a party well known for its climate skeptic leanings (to the point of wanting to ban the teaching of climate physics in schools…as well as evolution and this thing called “science” one assumes!). The Tories are in essence playing politics with the UK’s energy supply…again!

Indeed its entirely possible that such attempts to cut back on onshore wind will fail anyway. There’s numerous ways such a cut could be challenged both in the EU or WTO, given that it would amount to unfair competition. Already the government’s subsidy towards nuclear is under scrutiny by the EU commission, and this is in the context of an assumption that renewable subsidies would continue. And the fact is that energy companies actually like wind farms. Not just because of subsidies (though of course they help level the playing field with other energy sources), but as they can be a useful hedge against future rises in wholesale gas prices. Thus the industry might well decide to just defy the government and carry on regardless.

Yet again, what the Tories really need to do is grow a spine and confront UKIP.