Gibraltar and article 50


Brexit threatens to make a monkey out of the UK

The EU’s response to article 50 was fairly conciliatory and to be honest about as good as the UK could expect. If the EU wanted to be nasty, they could have taken the opportunity to pull funding from all EU farm subsidies, university research and development aid to the UK for all projects that would end post-brexit. Then slap all UK students in EU universities with a massive bill for their fees and ex-pats with fees for healthcare costs. They could have given MEP’s the day off, stopped Farage’s salary packed him off on the Eurostar home, handed out bottles of Champagne and declared a new EU wide holiday “so long suckers day”. But they didn’t.

But instead the plan seems to be to sort out the exit from the EU first then talk about a trade deal. This is as good as the UK is going to get. As one MEP pointed out, brexit is in of its self painful enough (self inflicted) punishment, the EU doesn’t have to be nasty. As for the Theresa May’s plan to essentially play chicken and brinkmanship with the EU, this is the equivalent of her driving towards the EU in a mini cooper, while the EU is in a truck driving towards her. And given that the EU has to balance out the consensus of 27 member states, its a truck that’s on cruise control. The EU won’t blink first. The eurozone crisis should have made that fairly obvious.

Of course the bit that got the tabloids worked up was how the EU appears to be backing Spain over Gibraltar. This is hardly surprising. Put yourself in the EU’s shoes. Suppose your a boss of a company, two employees are in dispute with one another over something. One is one of those nightmare employees who is always causing problems, who fortunately has already given his notice. The other is not your most dedicated employee, but he’s certainly loyal and generally pulls his weight. Who are you going to back up?

Personally, while I understand why Gibraltar’s citizens want to be part of the UK, I can’t understand why the UK wants with Gibraltar (I’m told by ex-pats its a grotty little tourist trap), nor what Spain wants with it either. Personally, I’d try and sell it to Morocco or some gullible Saudi sheik. However, Gibraltar’s post-brexit status does hammer home the sorts of issues the UK will face post-brexit. If the UK wants to maintain air links with Gibraltar, that will require EU agreement. So everything will have to take a week long sea voyage there or go through Spain (or possibly even Morocco). If the UK imposes strict border controls on the EU, then the EU will reciprocate, Gibraltar citizens will need a visa just to go into Spain to go shopping and visa versa. Trade and tourism will collapse. Leaving the EU common market and suddenly all the food and resources the colony needs gets slapped with tariffs ranging from 10-30%. In short, unless the rest of the UK is willing to pay a lot of money to subsidise Gibraltar, it will become non-viable pretty quicly. The locals will all leave and the UK will own a ghost town.

Naturally fighting talk about going to war to protect Gibraltar is just plain silly and shows how far divorced from reality the brexiters have strayed. Are they seriously proposing to attack a NATO ally because the Spanish make Gibraltar pay an extra 20% more for olive oil and they make the locals fill out the same sort of visa application form the British make Spanish fill out upon arrival at Heathrow?

But the thing is this will apply to the whole of the UK as well, Gibraltar is merely a microcosm of the problem. Any immigration controls or restrictions on free movement of people or goods, will be reciprocated by the EU. Smugglers, both those on the Irish border and the channel ports will be having a field day. An interesting article for example about the lengths smugglers of tea would go to in days gone by to outwith the tax man.

Furthermore, given that Spain has now indicated that it won’t block Scotland joining the EU, this suggests a secret horse trade has gone on. The EU has given Spain some leeway over Gibraltar, in return for which they will not object to Scotland joining the EU in the event of a yes vote. I warned before that if Tories plan to rely on “the Spanish option” to block Scottish independence, that’s not going to work….of course if Gibraltar really wants to put the cat among the pigeons, the thing to do would be to vote to join Scotland (they’d get to join the EU again and piss off the Spanish!).

But certainly if you heard a popping noise this Friday that was the sound of the brexiters bubble bursting. It should be obvious now that they are not in the driving seat. The UK’s options are to take the best deal the EU offers them, or screw the country over by exiting without a deal. Which isn’t much of a choice.

The case against article 50 and the hard brexit that will follow


So MP’s are finally voting on article 50. Tory eurosceptic labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is calling on his MP’s to back the bill. After all we had a referendum and a majority backed leave. However I would argue, no, both labour and Tory rebels should not back article 50 and here’s why.

Well no firstly they didn’t get a majority. As I’ve pointed out before multiply the turnout of the referendum (70%) by the 52% and you come up with 37%. Now excuse my elementary maths, but isn’t 37% less than 50%? By definition a majority requires +50%. In most European countries a decision on something as important as this this requires a majority decision, not a simple plurality. And this ignores the millions who were excluded from the ballot (EU citizens, UK citizens leaving abroad).


Brexit was only supported by 37% of the UK electorate and under 27% of the UK population

The idea that the UK can make such a momentous decision (which statisticians say was something of a fluke) on the basis of a decision made by just 37%, the vast majority of whom are old foggies who’ll be dead in a few years time (meaning technically the 52% “majority” will have slipped away not long after brexit is implemented), is a complete distortion of who democracy is supposed to work. Especially when we remember how the brexit camp only won thanks to criminally irresponsible” campaigning.


Its possible that the relative age difference between leave and remain voters means already they’ve lost the majority…if they ever had it in the first place!

And furthermore democracy is not majority rule. Its majority rule with minority rights. Given the tightness of the result, it would seem sensible to go for a Norway model arrangement. However, the Tories being the ideological zealots that they are pushing for a hard brexit. One that will see the UK becoming the 51st state of Trumpland.


Indeed, perhaps more worryingly, we now have the PM throwing herself at the feet of Trump, offering him a state visit just days after he took office (normal protocol is to wait until a president is well into his term) and refusing to join criticism of his openly racist ban on Muslims (including many British with dual nationality). This does not bode well for future negotiations with the US on trade. Keep in mind there’s all sorts of concession the US will be looking for. The ability to buy parts of the NHS, the relaxing of UK safety or environmental standards and changes to UK food standards.


You may wonder, if you’ve ever been to the US, why so many Americans have bizarre diets, they’ll avoid dairy or grains, but happily tuck into a pork chop. They’re vegan, but also like to go hunting. They eat all sorts of crap but insist on only soya milk in their coffee. Well the reason for this is the dire state of US food safety compared to those in Europe. This is a country where cattle can be pumped full of growth hormones (which end up in the meat or milk), chicken chlorinated and GM foods are often sold unlabelled. This is what’s going to be on your plate post-brexit.

Oh, what’s that you say, why I’ll just buy British. Ya, and already the UK farming lobby is looking to switch to these US production methods. Which aside from the food safety issues are terrible for the environment and for rural employment, given how the US food corporations and large farmers have squeezed out many small farmers. So UK farmers, especially small farms will struggle post-brexit. Oh and btw, the US food lobby are one of the main employers of foreign labour in the US. So not what you want brought over to rural England. In short, if you thought dealing with the EU was bad, dealing with Trump is a lot worse. And that is what MP’s will be voting for.

And worse, from a labour MP’s perspective, the Tories have hinted at how they want to get rid of the welfare state, gut employee protections and try and turn the country into some sort of tax haven for the super rich. Now firstly its unlikely they’d succeed, Ireland has a much lower rate of corporation tax (and personal income taxes), the Benelux and East Europeans offer even lower rates for certain kinds of business (and all throw in free EU membership as a freebie). The baby boomer pension time bomb and the very generous retirement the UK has given to its pensioners (free NHS treatment, bus pass, winter heating, TV license, weekly state pension, etc.) means the numbers simply don’t add up without reneging on pensions. But its probable they’ll at least try. One has to seriously question the sanity of any supposed left winger who votes to endorse this in a few days time.

Furthermore, as I’ve pointed out before any labour MP needs to think strategically. Basically if you are a labour MP, the people in your district who voted leave were overwhelmingly Tory or UKIP supporters. Polls have shown that the vast majority of labour members and supporters voted remain. Now backing brexit is not going to convince any of these conservatives types to back you next election…..but it might cause many of those who voted remain to vote against labour. I for one will not be voting labour next election if they back article 50, even if they oust Corbyn before the next election. And it will probably be a long time before I think of doing so again. As far as I see it if labour back brexit, they will be guilty of betraying every principle their party has stood by. And given that backing brexit has turn Corbyn into a Tory groupie, I’d be better off voting lib dem, the SNP or the Greens as they are providing much more effective opposition to the Tories than labour.

And I am far from alone, polls show many now vote one way or another depending on how they voted in the referendum. If labour backs brexit they are committing political suicide. The results of recent by-elections should have hammered that point home.

And from a UK point of view, a hard brexit means tension in Northern Ireland and Scotland. While its still far from clear Sturgeon can get a majority any time soon (although I won’t rule it out, her chances are better than last time), I’d argue such a historic betrayal by England all but guarantees that over a long enough time line (once the older generation who voted leave and no to independence last time have died off), that Scotland and NI will leave the UK at some point in the next few decades. Voting for article 50, MP’s need to consider you may be voting to break up the UK. Future historians might judge you very unkindly, noting that our current ones ain’t exactly thrilled either.

All in all we have to conclude the entire brexit process is flawed and it was flawed from the begining. Cameron, confident of victory and more worried about the short term internal politics of his own party, did not ensure the correct political checks and balances were put in place before calling the referendum. He should have insisted on a majority decision and held the referendum in the autumn when turnout from students would have been higher. He did not set out, nor did the leave camp, what kind of brexit we’d be getting. And I find it very difficult to believe that many of those who voted leave what the UK to “take control”….and then surrender sovereignty and control over our food supply and Health care to Trump and his cronies. The entire process is flawed, its going to be a mess, so I’d say go back to the begining and start again. Why should the country suffer just because Cameron was a moron?

Northern ireland, a radical post-Brexit fix


Brexit now threatens much uncertainty as regards Northern Ireland. As one of the most deprived parts of the UK, sharing a direct land border with the eurozone, it will likely bare the brunt of any post-Brexit downturn. Already a legal challenge against Brexit has been launched by a cross party group. There’s even stories of unionists applying for Irish passports south of the border.

Inevitably this means the possibility of Irish reunification has come back on the agenda. There is an absence of reliable polling data, but one poll from the Belfast Telegraph suggested a significant lead for a united Ireland (this must be put in context, not as reliable as a regular poll and similar polls showing a very strong lead to Scottish independence that has now slipped somewhat). But certainly, it seems there has been a significant move in public opinion since Brexit (which has previously show a 60/40 split against a united Ireland). A united Ireland is now no longer just some sort of Sinn Fein fantasy.

And Scottish independence would complicate matters further. Consider that if Scotland breaks away it will be only be possible to travel from the North to the rUK via a foreign country (e.g. via Scotland or via the Republic). Northern Ireland will essentially become an overseas territory of the (former) United Kingdom, surrounded by the EU. It short I would argue that in much the same way that Brexit makes Scottish independence more likely, Brexit and Scottish independence makes a united Ireland more likely (if not an inevitability). Of course this will likely go down like a lead balloon in many loyalist strongholds in the North.

It is in situations like this that a radical solution is required. So what I would propose is that, in the case of Scottish independence, there should be a referendum in Northern Ireland, not on re-unification but instead on changing the terms of the act of Union by which Northern Ireland would enter into a union with Scotland. In essence NI would recognise Scotland as the successor state to the UK, rather than England.

This would offer several benefits from a unionist prospective. They would still have the queen as head of state, they would still be part of the commonwealth and NATO. They would also get to keep the pound (although it would now likely be the Scottish pound). On the other hand, Irish republicans would likely find the government in Edinburgh a good deal less antagonistic a partner than Westminster.

Indeed I suspect the strongest objections to such a proposal would come from the republicans. There’s an old republican saying that goes “England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity”. Or to put that in slightly less diplomatic terms, the Brits have a habit of screwing up and its usually Toff’s in London playing games of empire who are to blame. If the Scot’s don’t antagonise either the catholic or unionist communities, they avoid dragging the North into the various wars of empire like London did (which of course led directly to Irish independence, as well as American independence and most of the rest of their empire breaking up too), then this new union becomes likely to be the default end state. In short, Irish unification becomes a lot less likely if Northern Ireland was in a union with Scotland rather than England.

Will such a deal happen? Probably not. In much of the same way that one of the SNP’s best allies is the Tory party, one of the Irish nationalists best allies is the ulster unionists. Their closed minds doesn’t leave room for much in the way of radical ideas or compromise. I mean a lot of them voted for Brexit, despite the fact that this was pretty much a case of Turkey’s voting for Christmas. And some are (as noted) ignoring the glaring hypocrisy and quietly applying for an Irish passport.

So my guess is the unionist will refuse to compromise. They’ll find themselves facing a declining economy, overrun by refugees (with both NI’s borders controlled by foreign states it will be all but impossible to limit or deport migrants and refugees, something that will be quickly exploited by the next wave of migrants). Support for reunification will steadily grow, until eventually it gets enough support and passes. But let it be said, that there is an alternative. The question is will they take it?

Why Indy-ref2 will be very different


In the wake of the Brexit vote, the SNP are calling for another referendum on Scottish independence. Inevitably the Tories are saying no, why we had one just two years ago, what’s changed since then to warrant another referendum? Well in short, everything. This referendum will be very different, anything but a re-run of the previous one. The issues have changed, public opinion has changed, the consequences of Independence have changed.

Post-Brexit opinion

Naturally the fact that the Scottish overwhelmingly voting to stay in the EU and the rUK voting to leave, does drastically change things. We were assured by the Tories at the last vote that Brexit was very unlikely and there was little difference between opinions on the EU north of the border and south of it. Well clearly that was not true. And recall much of the “project fear” arguments related to uncertainty over Scotland’s EU membership if Scotland left the UK. So it is entirely legitimate to want the referendum re-run for these reasons alone (either that or rerun the Brexit vote).


And opinion polls reflect this. In the immediate wake of Brexit a poll emerged showing a whopping 27% lead to independence. More recent polls show a smaller lead of 6-7% towards yes.


Its worth keeping in mind that in the immediate wake of the last referendum opinion polls narrowed to either a tie, a narrow lead to yes or a 3-5% lead to no. So we have a shift in public opinion of at least 10% (if not more) over this one issue in the space of a few weeks. That is more than sufficient grounds by itself to argue for a 2nd vote. Not least because it changes how a future independence vote will be run.

Project fear

Last time around the Tories and the no camp opted for so called project fear. Pointing to the economic dangers of Scottish independence. However, now both camps will likely be running their own brand of project fear. The SNP will be able to point out that by remaining in the EU, Scotland will benefit greatly, many companies that trade with the EU in the UK will likely relocate north of the border. So the no camp won’t have everything its own way.

One of my criticisms of the SNP last time around was the fact that they were a bit unrealistic and did not consider the negative consequences of independence. This time around it seems they are planning for a bit of a warts and all approach, acknowledging that post- independence the country will have to make some tough choices, but it will be better off in the long run. While this approach might put some people off, the obvious benefit is that it leaves the no camp with nowhere to go. They can’t run project fear, when the SNP are saying the same thing anyway.

In any event I would argue that one reasons why the Tories lost the Brexit referendum was that they kept playing the project fear card. But after playing the same card in three referendums and a general election people simply didn’t believe them anymore, they’ve developed an immunity to it. In short, I’m doubtful it will work this time, particularly if they are already behind in the polls.

Instead, the Tories will have to play up the positive aspects of being in the UK. However, there’s the problem. The Tories, don’t exactly do positives, not in Scotland anyway. Them trying to be positive is like someone dressed as a creepy clown driving around late at night in a creepy looking van trying to hand out free candy to kids.


The Tories Indyref2 battle bus is unveiled

Who will lead the no vote?

This is why last time the Tories largely left it up to labour to lead the no vote campaign. But labour are unlikely to make that mistake a 2nd time. In the wake of the indy-ref labour support in Scotland plummeted. They lost all but one of their seats in Scotland. And to add insult to injury, in a typical act of Sith betrayal, the Tories then ran a general election campaign centred on how labour would be beholden to those sneaky scots and in Alex Slamond’s pocket.


A poster campaign that the Tories will likely regret running, if there’s a 2nd independence referendum

So I think the lesson for Scottish labour would be to not take the lead on any campaign. Indeed if you have been listening to Scottish labour leader Kezia Dugdale recently you will see she’s leaving nothing out. She’s even not closing off the option to support an independence campaign. Now I doubt that would actually happen (indeed she’s since back petalled from this a bit). However, the indecision within Scottish labour leadership does reflect the fact that they cannot take the same approach as last time. My guess is Scottish labour will be neutral in the next referendum, some in the party will campaign for a yes vote, others for a no vote. Or the party may just stay out of it altogether.

While I won’t rule out a figure like Gordon Brown stepping in to lead the no vote, I’m not sure how effective he would be, he’s soften his tone somewhat since the 23rd of June. Certainly I doubt we’ll be getting Alastair Darling again (I bumped into him not too long ago, I was careful not to mention the Scottish referendum as I had this fear he’d start foaming at the mouth and banging his head against the wall as he succumbed to paranoid flash backs), the poor guy has suffered enough. And given the lib dem’s ferrero rocher moment, I’m doubting they are in a position to help, nor would they want too.

My guess is that the no camp will have to look outside of politics, find someone like J. K Rowling or that guy from dragon’s den, to lead the no campaign. However, that would be a risky strategy. Basically it will either be spectacularly successful, or they’ll go into a debate against Nicola Sturgeon and she’ll shred them (politicians tend to be good debaters) and the whole thing will fall apart.


One of the major mistake from last time was the failure of the SNP to be able to answer a simple question, what currency will we be using on independence day? Again, minded as I was to support independence, it baffled me how they couldn’t get something this basic right.


And quite frankly the idea that of sharing the pound A) have you run that past Whitehall? cos I think they’ll say no, and B) why would you want to keep the pound? This undermines the whole point of independence! Clearly the SNP policy here was being driven by the results of focus groups, which showed many didn’t want to give up the pound for various reasons.

However with the pound falling in value, the case for retaining the pound is undermined. In some respects you could argue a Scottish pound would have advantages. And to those who say it can’t be a stable currency, ya and you might want to run that by the Danes, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Hungary, the Czech’s, etc. All have their own currency, all are small countries, in many cases with a smaller population and GDP than Scotland. They (with the noted exception of Norway) don’t have Scotland’s oil reserves or high value exports. And many other EU states, such as Ireland, Belgium, or Holland had a stable independent currency for many years prior to joining the Euro. So I have little doubt that a Scottish pound is a realistic possibility.

And the SNP seem to recognising this. It would seem that this time they will be campaigning on the basis of founding their own currency, although its value might at least initially pegged to the UK pound (the Danes have a similar arrangement with the Euro, as do Norway to Sweden) or even joining the euro. This will not be straight forward. It will take time and it might mean some temporary austerity or tax hikes initially, while proving to the world that Scotland can balance its books…..although its worth noting that the Tories have thoroughly failed to do anything of the sort.

But if they can win the argument on currency, then that does change things considerably.

EU citizens and Scottish independence

Last time around the SNP broadened the big tent as wide as they could, gambling that the more they had voting, the more likely independence would become. Of course, they knew that there were large groups who would vote as a block against independence, but they were gambling that the yes votes they gathered in the process would cancel this out (of course they were wrong, in the end the vow meant the numbers just didn’t add up).

EU citizens, who were allowed to vote last time around but denied a vote in the EU referendum, by and large voted against Scottish independence. However, this is unlikely to be the case this time around. With Theresa May threatening to use them as pawns in negotiations with Brussels, we can assume many EU citizens in Scotland will now vote for Scottish independence to preserve their status within the EU. Certainly for me, its all but a given I’ll vote yes, if only for this reason alone.

And similarly there will be large blocks of people who voted no last time who can be expected to now vote yes. Again, this changes the dynamics of the referendum completely. The no camp, last time relied on the fact that a large proportion of voters would be naturally expected to vote no, so they only had to focus those who were on the fence. Now its the other way around. Hence, why a “project fear” approach is unlikely to work.

And if lots of EU citizens are voting for Scottish independence, this naturally changes the position of the EU as regards the question. EU government will have to take into account what’s in the interest of their citizens living in Scotland.

The EU and the Spanish

Another major sticking point from last time was the attitude of the EU. Last time the SNP seemed to assume they were already a member of the EU, the EU pointed out that no, you’ll have to apply for membership like everyone else.

Now the EU seems a bit more open towards the idea of Scottish independence. They will be anxious to avoid setting a precedence by admitting Scotland, but some sort of fast track approach in conjunction with Brexit (or should we say Engexit) is a possibility. There will likely be a transition period, when the country is not in the UK but also not in the EU, but with the right agreements in place this should not effect trade.

The Spanish do represent something of a sticking point. They don’t want Scottish independence to create a case for Catalonian independence (or Basque independence). However the Spanish are also very quick to point out that the Scottish question is a very different matter. However if they were to openly block Scottish EU membership (as its often implied by some in the media they would) naturally this would lead many to question whether the two issues are so different. In short, they would have undermined their own case for blocking Catalonian independence.

And the Spanish will know that there will be countries in the EU which are more favourable Scottish independence, such as Ireland, or many of the Eastern European and Scandinavian countries. The danger for the Spanish is that if they try too hard, they’ll antagonise these nations, which would be a bad idea as it would undermine their own position.

So my guess is, the EU will ask a lot of tough questions, the Spanish will try to drag things out a bit, but otherwise it will probably go ahead. It will take a lot more time than the SNP seem to think, but a lot less time than the naysayers will have us believe.

Bottom line, the EU is not about to vote to make itself smaller. The consequences for Scotland voting to stay in the EU, voting to leave the UK as a consequence and then being given the cold shoulder would fundamentally undermine the whole EU project.


And speaking of Spain, there’s the question of the legality of a second independence referendum. It seems likely that Westminster will not allow another legally binding referendum. In essence their plan is to counter independence the same way the Spanish saw off the Catalonia vote, by denying the referendum credibility.


However if this is the plan, its not going to work. Why? Simple – 37.3%, which you arrive at by multiplying the 51.8% who voted for Brexit times the turn out of 72.2%. The problem for the Tories is that they are pushing ahead with Brexit, on the basis of a non-legally binding referendum, without a vote in parliament, on the basis of a plurality of just 37.3%. By doing so they are setting a precedence. If the SNP can get the vote for independence over this bar, then it becomes very difficult to argue against them. And that isn’t very difficult to do, particularly if many no voters don’t bother showing up to the polls.

Let us suppose the latest opinion polls showing a 47% to 41% split in the vote is correct. Let us suppose that the don’t know‘s and the strong no‘s boycott the next indy-ref, so only those who are weak no‘s (they feel there should be a vote even though they still intend to vote no, e.g. they are married or to a yes voter) and yes voters show up to the polls. Well do the maths and with a turn out of just 48% the SNP could exceed the plurality of the Brexit vote (in this scenario the result would be 77% for and 23% against). And if we assume that the turn out for an Indy ref2 is the same as the EU referendum (67%, again strong no‘s and don’t know’s stay away, leaving the poll to be fought between the weak no‘s and the yes voters). The likely result will be about 67% yes, 33% no with a plurality of 45%.

So I’m afraid the “Spanish option” would likely be a total disaster for the Tories, not least because after 6-12 months of a one sided campaign from the SNP, public opinion won’t be split 47/41, probably the margin will be much higher and therefore the SNP’s margin of victory will be a lot higher. Its not too difficult to see them exceeding a plurality of 50%.

All the Tories will do with such a tactic is guarantee a very wide margin of victory to the SNP. And then what are they going to do? They can’t veto Scotland’s EU membership like they threatened to do last time. They can’t deny the Scot’s the pound if they set up their own currency (actually Whitehall will now be more worried about the Scot’s refusing to take on their share of the UK’s national debt). Armed with a democratic mandate that exceeds that of the Tories, it will be very difficult for them to stop Scottish independence.

And while the EU will be reluctant to recognise Scottish independence, they will not ignore the result and will likely insist that post-Brexit negotiations only consider the rUK, opening separate talks directly with Edinburgh.

The vow mark II

Last time, Scottish independence was partially thwarted thanks to a last minute intervention by Gordon Brown, culminating in the infamous vow. Could the same happen again?


There is already a post-brexit proposal for a federal UK in which all powers, excluding defence and foreign policy are devolved to the regions and a new English parliament. There would be either a shared currency with the pound becoming essentially like a mini-eurozone, or each nation would develop its own currency pegged to a fixed exchange rate.

This could well be sufficient to allow Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar to stay in the UK and also in the EU. While the Spanish (again) will deny this, there is a precedence here. Greenland is part of Denmark, but not in the EU, even though the rest of Denmark is in the EU. So its not beyond the scope of legal argument for this to work.

However, the rest of the UK would have to agree to this. And Theresa May isn’t exactly the sort of PM we could see signing up for it (she’s a bit authoritarian). Without a clear mandate prior to a vote, you’d be asking Scot’s to choose between a possibly maybe and the certainty of independence. That doesn’t sound like it will work.

And also, there’s the issue of credibility. There are many Scot’s who feel that the vow was never delivered on. While the Tories would argue no we did deliver on the vow, but this is a bit like paying a kid to cut your lawn, and he sets it on fire. Okay, he did reduce the height of the grass, but its not quite what you were expecting.

Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

The uncertainty principle

So all in all, a second independence referendum will be a very different affair. The SNP won’t have everything their own way. They’ve got some difficult questions to answer. The stakes are higher now, post-brexit. But equally, the Tories now face some serious challenges. Trying to fight an independence referendum while negotiating Brexit, with all of their broken promises dug up by the SNP and spat back at them, its not going to be easy. And ignoring the problem and hoping that it goes away, will all but guarantee that Scottish independence happens.

So in the absence of a reversal of the Brexit referendum, I don’t see how a 2nd independence referendum can be stopped. But will independence happen? Last time my assumption was probably not, but I could just about see Cameron screwing things up enough to make it a possibility. Now however, I’d call the odds 50/50, perhaps higher. But that’s what’s really changed, I don’t see how anyone could predict the outcome this time.

News roundup

The 2nd longest suicide note in history


The Republican national convention is currently kicking off and things aren’t off to a great start. The cops are calling for the state’s open carry law to be suspended (after recent police shootings they’ve come to realise that the solution to a bad guy with a gun is and making sure he’s not armed, and not hiding in a crowd of 100 other armed nutters). And with the cult of Trump in town and lots of angry anti-Trump protesters, trouble is all but guaranteed.

Many leading republicans are skipping the convention (and probably with all the guns are very glad to do so!) as they want to stay well away from the train wreck otherwise known as Trump. As a result the roster of speakers at the convention is a little thin, even Trump’s wife and daughter is having to speak, oh and the boss of the Trump winery (presumably to help push Trump’s merchandise). About the only senior republicans speaking are Paul Ryan (who has to speak, someone from congress had to show up and he drew the short straw), Chris Christie (aka, Trump’s official sidekick) and Newt Gingrich (Trump’s wannabe sidekick).

Meanwhile the policy agenda that will be endorsed at the convention includes a number of extremely conservative positions. For example porn is labelled a “public health crisis, they want to crack down of gays, introduce “gay conversion therapy” (I don’t know either, maybe get them to watch porn…oh no wait didn’t we just ban that?), banning abortion, etc. They’ve even managed to piss off the ADL. Although to be fair, as Israel is not a US state and both Trump and his supporters are clueless to anything outside the US, it would have to be pointed out to them on a map.

The GOP has avoided including such toxic policies in the past, because they know they would never get through congress (even some Republicans would vote against them!) and even then they would likely be struck down by the the Supreme court. All you’re doing is loading a gun with ammo for the democrats to blast away at them with for the next four months. Trump’s manifesto could well go down as the 2nd longest political suicide note in history.

Already comparisons are being drawn to the disastrous convention of 1992. Back then the GOP had spent several years trying to woo white evangelicals such as Jerry Farwell’s “moral majority” into the big GOP tent. Up till then many christian conservatives had not voted because the party of Lincoln was after all the party that freed the slaves, while the democrats had decided that minorities had all sorts of “rights” and you couldn’t like lynch em or burn crosses on their lawns no more (bloody liberals!).

Anyway this plan backfired with the Christian conservatives effectively hijacking the GOP policy committee and forced it to adopt various right wing policies, not unlike those Trump is now endorsing. This appalled many moderate Republicans, who took the view that the GOP was supposed to be the party of small government, not the party that advocates an authoritarian state that dictates what people do in the privacy of their own homes.

Consequently G. W. Bush, whose campaign was already behind due to a struggling economy, was from this point on all but guaranteed to lose to rank outsider Bill Clinton (whom most people had never heard of at the time). And lose by a significant margin he did, becoming one of the few US presidents in recent times not to win a 2nd term in office.

And to make matters worse for the GOP, the fall out from the convention led to a resurgence in support towards the third party campaign of Ross Perot’s. Now while this took as many votes away from Clinton as it did Bush, the fallout carried over into the 1996 election, where again Perot ran on a ticket appealing to small government moderate Republicans, the people edged out or booed off stage in the 1992 convention. And again, he cost the GOP precious votes all but guaranteeing Clinton a 2nd term.

So while this will be an awful sickening coronation of Trump, it also could well be a funeral of sorts for any hope of the Republicans winning diddly squat for a good few years.

Police shootings
Recent police shootings in America are cause for concern, although statistics do suggest that the overall situation isn’t quite as bad as might be thought. Cop killings have been steadily falling for sometime now.


However, certainly the toxic atmosphere of recent months means that the police forces in America are loosing public support. It is argued that the police are only police because we the public consent to them their authority to uphold the law. If this consent is withdrawn, well they ain’t much more than a rent-a-cop mall guard. And should any cops be wondering how to tell if you’ve lost the support of the community, well when they start shooting you just for being cops, that’s probably it!

But getting shot at is only the start. And to be honest tighter gun control would solve that problem. Its the inability for police to do their job that’s the danger. If the public don’t trust the police, they won’t rely on them in a crisis, they’ll turn to someone else, likely the local Mr Big. The rise of the Mafia in America, first the Irish mob, then the Italian mob, was borne out of the fact that these immigrant communities did not trust the cops. History is in effect repeating itself.

Trident vote


The UK is voting on Trident renewal. The Tories have been accused of only holding it now to help destabilise the labour party. And the price tag? A snip at £205 billion, or to put it in Brexit bus terms that’s £569 million a month for the next 30 years.

However, I cannot help but notice that if the vote were being held north of the border, the result would be very difference. Only one MP is planning on vote for Trident, (David Mundell, the only Tory MP in Scotland), all the rest are either abstaining or voting against it. Is this because the missiles are based in Scotland, while the armchair chicken hawks chatter about it in Westminster, or is it because Scot’s can add and subtract and realise its a complete waste of money?

Indy Ref2 next year?
Theresa May met with Nicola Sturgeon last week to discuss the consequences of Brexit and the possiblity of a further referendum (on the EU or Scottish independence). I assume it didn’t go so well, because within hours of it ending we were hearing murmurings of a possible 2nd Scottish independence referendum in early 2017.


Let us be clear about what is going on here. Yes the SNP want Scottish independence, but unlike Cameron they aren’t morons. Yes, the polls do show that the ground has shifted, with several polls now showing a clear (but sometimes narrow) lead for independence. But you can never guarantee anything leading into a referendum, not unless you are well ahead (and recall remain had a ten point lead at the start of the EU referendum). It would make sense for the SNP to wait as long as possible before calling a referendum. And they also realise that they have to explore every possible alternative before committing to one.

On the other hand, the Tories attempt to stonewall the Scot’s is making it very easy for the SNP. The Tories are trying to ignore this shift in the polls, ignoring the very narrow majority in the EU referendum, not to mention the fact that only 37% of the electorate actually voted for Brexit and many millions (EU citizens and British citizens abroad) were denied the right to vote, as were students not at their term time addresses. And of course an overwhelming proportion of Scot’s voted against leaving the EU.


Of course there’s an obvious horse trade here. The Tories allow the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish assemblies some input to the terms of Brexit. And furthermore, a requirement it is ratified either by all four parliaments, or via another referendum. However, the Tories seem to be ignoring this, same way they are ignoring the fact that the EU referendum result is not legally binding and that they may face obstacles getting it through Westminster. As a result the same Tory arrogance that led them into the first inde-ref (and the EU referendum) could well be their undoing this time around.

Vote leave bus rebranded by Greenpeace
Greenpeace have somehow managed to get their hands on the infamous Brexit bus with all of the misleading slogans on it. I was surprised by this, as I assumed that, like the Edstone, it would have been destroyed….ritually burned….presumably with Gove still inside!


Anyway, it would appear Greenpeace plan to “correct” the messages on it and drive around with it as a “vehicle for truth”.

The Tories thought that they could tell a few lies to the public, so that Boris could get to be PM, but what harm could it do, I mean who remembers politician’s promises? I mean remember when that Clegg fellow made that promise to students about fees, why they forgot about that within a week. No way this £350 million claim will come back to haunt them, next election, would it?….ah no!

The Brexit camp have created a enormous level of distrust by their actions. And yes, this £350 million claim did sway voters, and yes they expect it to be honoured, I had a conversation with someone who repeated the claim a few days ago (he seemed to think taxes were about to go down after Boris told em we’ll not be paying the £350 million anymore). Couple that with the fact that there will be little if any change to immigration rules and you could argue the Tories have made life very tough for themselves. Ironically there are worries for the future of NHS funding post-Brexit.

And if there is another indy-ref next year and project fear is resurrected, what’s the bet that the SNP counter is, these are the same people who told us we could save £350 million a week by leaving the EU. If you could write anything on the Tories party’s tombstone (well aside from ding dong the witch is dead!) it would be this £350 million a week claim.

Mrs Fracking
There are growing concerns about the axing of the DECC, which I discussed in a prior post. But worse the decision to hand over part of its responsibilities to Andrea “Fruitcake” Landsom has been called into question. She’s a pro-Fracking, climate Skeptic known for her extreme views. I could argue that its putting the fox in charge of the hen house, but actually she’d shoot the fox (she’s pro-fox hunting) and burn down the hen house to save it. She’s also on record as arguing against farm subsidies, which is obviously very worrying for farmers, who are already anxious over the consequences of Brexit.


I mean Tim Peake got back from Space, learnt about Brexit, Trump and all that’s happened since he left and tried to rush back into the capsule (okay, not quite!).

The legality of brexit


With tens of thousands marching in anti-Brexit rallies, one question that gets raised – is Brexit legal? John Kerry was criticised for suggesting recently that the Brexit vote could be “walked back.

You see the referendum was only advisory and not legally binding (no doubt the idea of civil servants who don’t want the bigot brigade dragging the country out of the EU without some sort of legislative oversight). In theory therefore, an act of parliament is needed to legitimise the leave vote. Attempting to invoke Article 50 without this would, as we will discuss, open up various potential pitfalls and show stoppers which any PM will want to avoid before trying to negotiate with the EU.

So all Teresa May the next PM needs to do is ask Parliament to vote on it and that’s it, right? Well no. The remain side have an overwhelming majority in Parliament (about 3 to 1 in favour of remain) and if allowed a free vote may decide to defy the electorate and vote against it. Alternatively some may simply abstain, which if enough do, then there will not be a sufficient quorum to make the vote legal.


Now before anyone says that’s undemocratic, well actually no, forcing MP’s to vote for something they fundamentally disagree with would be undemocratic. Parliament is there to prevent mob rule, not facilitate it. Indeed a legal expert has concluded that the lies of the leave campaign are in fact so serious that they were “criminally irresponsible”. This presents more than sufficient grounds for an MP to reject the referendum result and vote against any attempt to invoke article 50.

The two main parties may well enforce the party whip and force MP’s to vote for it, but its hard to see how that’s going to work given the current chaos in the house of commons. The house of lords, and perhaps arguably the Scottish Parliament, northern Irish and Welsh assemblies must also give their consent. All of these bodies are very much opposed to Brexit and again if given a free vote would overwhelmingly reject it.

The house of commons could overturn these objections using the Parliament Act, although its unclear if this would be applicable under the present circumstances (we are into uncharted legal territory now), there would need to be multiple readings of the bill in the Commons (all of which would have to pass) and then a delay of at least a year. And given the EU’s insistence on invoking article 50 first, that would suggest it could take sometime before Brexit will occur. A long period of uncertainty is exactly what the markets fear about Brexit.

This is why some argue the solution is what I call the Palpatine option. As in “I’ll make it legal”. In other words the PM simply argues that politics trumps the law and invokes article 50 without first consulting parliament. However this would raise the risk of the Brexit process being challenged in court. The worst case scenario for the UK is to be half way through the Brexit process and have it halted by the courts. That would leave the country in legal limbo.

Also it would effectively legitimise any future Scottish independence referendum. If the UK can leave the EU via a non-legally binding advisory referendum, then the SNP will argue that so too can Scotland leave the UK via one. Particularly if the main reason for having a 2nd independence referendum is the decision to illegally withdraw the UK from the EU without applying the proper checks and balances, after Scotland voted to stay in.

Some have pointed to how the Spanish were able to stop the Catalan’s advisory referendum leading to independence, as an example of how Westminster will handle the SNP. However I would make a few points. Firstly the Spanish haven’t just voted to withdraw from the EU and drag the Catalan’s out against their will. Secondly, Spain has a proper constitution, while the UK has a load of contradictory laws written on the back of goatskin that we laughably refer to as a constitution. And thirdly, the Catalan independence campaign is really just a reaction to the current right wing government and their austerity policies. Once they are out of the way, its expected that support for independence will evaporate.

Also keep in mind, one of the cards the rUK would have been holding over the SNP was the option of blocking Scotland’s membership application for the EU (if for example the Scot’s refused to take on their share of UK debt or tried to make a unilateral declaration of independence). That option disappeared on the 23rd of last month.

So given the situation I would argue that those who reckon Brexit might not happen, or that there should be a second vote may well have a point. Which brings us back to John Kerry. You see in America lots of states have advisory referendum’s like this all the time. Usually its some nutter who manages to get a lot of signatures and puts forward some BS proposal (making not just gay marriage illegal but making gays illegal sort of stuff). And a lot of the time nothing happens because the state legislators just ignore them, or the courts point out its simply not legal, or its a matter for the federal government to decide. In law at least what John Kerry said is correct.

Given the circumstances I would argue that the solution is simple. Have a 2nd legally binding vote, preferably at a more appropriate time of year (i.e. when we can guarantee turn out will be fairer and not blatantly favour the leave camp) such as September (this is why the SNP held the first independence referendum at this time of year). And this time don’t excluding millions of UK nationals overseas and EU nationals in the UK. Everyone gets a vote on a level playing field this time. Alternatively hold an early election in the autumn and then let parliament decide.

Vote Brexit for Scottish Independence?


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

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

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

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

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

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

What I missed on my hols….

I’ve been away in Spain for a few days and thought a little catchup would be order….

Labour Anti-Semitism?

Labour is currently embroiled in an “anti-Semitism” row. It was all started by an aid to Corbyn ally John Mc Donnell, making a (bad) joke…..2 years ago! And the media took this quib on Twitter as if it was a serious political statement. Then Ken Livingstone put his foot in it, which the anti-Corbyn wing of the party exploited to get him “suspended” although exactly what he’s suspended from is unclear (he’s kind of semi-retired now, doesn’t hold any official posts).

And its stretching things to call this “anti-Semitism. A number of pro-Israeli cheerleaders have long tried to stick the “anti-semitic” label onto anyone who is even remotely critical of Israel. However, this means we would have to label many people, including several former heads of Israeli border security and intelligence as being “anti-Semitic” as they too have been critical of Israeli policy (far more critical in fact than Ken!). A similar “row” is also going on in relation to the NUS, who have just voted in their first black female leader, with some now threatening to boycott the NUS as a result (which sounds more like Islamophobia to me).


Spot the Racist…..hint, according to the media he’s the one with the cup of tea

If you want to talk about anti-Semitism I’d be less worried about the labour party and more worried about the rise of fascist parties across Europe. If anyone (such as these anti-Corbyn labour MP’s or journalists) honestly think Ken Livingstone is anti-Semitic, go talk to some skinheads some time (Hungary’s Jobbik being a good example). Oddly enough, they don’t seem to mind Israeli policy in the West bank (the bit that involves shooting Muslims anyway), but that doesn’t make them supporters of Israel (these are the sorts who believe all of that Rothschild nonsense). And correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t we see this before? A bunch of fascists came to power, the right wing media aligned with them, told us not to worry, they didn’t mean it when they said nasty anti-Jewish things….its the lefties who are the real enemy. Remind me, how did that work out?


Quite clearly what’s going on here is that the anti-Corbynites in the labour party have been searching for months for a way of attacking him and his allies, and this seemed to bite, so they went for it. Whether its actually true or not scarcely matters. If Corbyn, or any of his supporters, were to quib “is the pope catholic” the headline the next day would be “Commie Corbyn questions the pope’s legitimacy”. If he ran into a burning house to save a baby, the tabloids would immediately accuse him of being anti-fire (man’s earliest invention mocked by leftie leader) and taking jobs away from hard working firemen.

UK elections results


The SNP fell short of a majority, which was a pity as they were quite close. However this election was not about who would run Scotland (the SNP were always going to win), it was about who would be the main opposition to the SNP. Needless to say having the Tories as Scotland’s main opposition is not a good news. I know of quite a few who plumbed for the Tories because they felt Labour was now unclear on the independence issue. Its like labour can’t get anything right. They lost support last election for not being neutral on independence now they are losing votes for being neutral on the matter!

The bad news for any who voted for the Tories for these reasons, you wasted your vote. If the SNP want to hold an independence referendum they can count on the support of the Greens. They would either abstain and give the SNP a defacto majority, or (more than likely) vote with them in favour of another referendum. Given that the most likely trigger for an independence referendum would be Brexit, its difficult to believe that the whole of the labour or lib dem parties will remain anti-referendum knowing the impact on their electorates of an EU exit.

My guess is, if Brexit happens, then the SNP will not have to try very hard to get the votes needed to block legislation from Westminster (for Brexit to be legal, the Scottish Parliament would have to repeal various EU laws first, which they could refuse to do) thus forcing a constitutional crisis and a 2nd inde-ref.

And of course, the main risk of Brexit is posed not by the SNP or labour but by the Tories, so electing a party who cannot agree on this issue actually increases the probability of a 2nd Inde-ref. And rather than holding the SNP’s feet to the fire over public services, no doubt instead the Tories will obsess over other issues such as immigration. In short, Scotland’s interests are not best served by this.

In the rest of the UK, labour hung on…just! They are still in charge in many councils, have a minority government in Wales and took the mayor of London off the Tories (the new mayor then immediately attacking his own party leader…so much for party unity, here’s Corbyn’s response). Certainly its not the sort of result you want to see if you hope that labour will win the next election. However, its not a knock out blow for the anti-Corbyn factions.

On the back pages

Anytime a big story breaks, its worth looking through the back pages of the newspaper, for stories that someone is trying to bury. The fact the Tories have now conducted a U-turn on academies is certainly one of those. How such an obviously unpopular and unworkable policy could make it so close to being implemented should tell you alot about how out of touch the Tories truly are.

Another was the long term funding of the BBC. The culture secretary (when not hanging out with prostitutes) let slip the “tempting prospect” of the BBC disappearing in 2017. The BBC’s charter runs out and there are now serious concerns as to what the Tories will do. No doubt sell it to the Murdoch’s one imagines (oh, and that would swing things the way of the SNP who would likely campaign for an independent BBC in Scotland if the Beeb as we know it was threatened).


Finally, there’s the naming of NERC’s new ship as the RRS David Attenborough, defying the internet poll looking to call it Boaty Mc Boatface. If someone asks you a serious question and you give a silly answer, then you can’t complain when they ignore you. I mean if you asked your relatives for some baby names and they all agreed you should call the child something vulgar, would you do so? Oddly enough there’s now a petition to get David to change his name to Boaty McBoatface.

EU referendum

It has gone a little quiet on the EU referendum, although that’s likely to change, the numbers have started to narrow, which is worrying. One thing I can say, having spoken to many Europeans during my hol’s there will be no sweetheart deals for the UK post-Brexit. The UK will be given its marching orders and a boot out the door. Some feel that even the concessions Cameron got went too far as it is. So let’s put that one to bed.


Also, the expat community are getting a little panicky. I mean put yourself in their shoes, they might have to sell up their home, move back to draughty damp England (quite a few live in Spain for health reasons) to live in a council flat (many could not afford to buy a house in the UK now, given their fixed income and low property prices in Spain) just because of a bunch of geographically challenged bigots.

In an effort to counter much of the negative economic projections relating to Brexit, a group has been formed called “Economists for Brexit”. However, their credentials don’t exactly stack up. Most appear to be pals or buddies of various figures in the Brexit camp, notably Boris Johnson’s economic’s advisor Gerard Lyons.

One is forced to the conclusion that this was something hashed together. You can imagine Boris saying “why all this economic stuff is killing us…wait a minute Greg, you’re an economists aren’t you? Could you get a few chaps together to say we’ll be okay?”. Certainly there report has to be weighted against the reports released by the IMF, the OECD and the Treasury all saying that the economy will be worse off. Also we need to add to the “stay” side of the scales a report penned by…..Gerard Lyon’s himself warning of the danger’s of Brexit released a few months back (before Boris had decided to back the leave camp). One wonders what suddenly changed in the space of a few months to make him completely change his views (his boss wants to be PM perhaps?).

Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your point of view, this referendum won’t be decided on “facts” but on what ever BS the tabloids can drag up and scare people into voting one way or the other. Never in the history of democracy has such an important question been posed to those who are so poorly informed to answer it.

Why an EU Referendum would be a very bad idea

The Tories of course have promised a referendum on the EU, although I’m suspicious as to whether they will actually commit to this course once it becomes obvious its not going to go the way they’d like it too.

While inevitably some will point to the election result as proof that we need to have a referendum (the argument being that a majority of people want it….although I seem to recall the Tories only winning 37% of the vote…a good bit short of a majority!). However the point of government is to make responsible decisions, not pander to the whims of the mob. As a consequence there are many good legal and practical reasons for this referendum not to be held.

A British Constitution
So why is it that the British haven’t had a referendum on Europe since the 70’s, yet some countries like Ireland have had more than we can count? Or indeed how is it we got to have a vote on gay marriage and the UK didn’t?

Well because in Ireland we, like almost every other civilised democracy, have a constitution, which can only be altered by popular vote of the people. Thus any time a new EU treaty comes up, we get to have a vote on it. UK citizens don’t get to vote on such matters, because you don’t have a constitution. Hence if there’s any referendum we should be having in Britain in 2017 its one on a UK constitution.

This would, in the first instance, guarantee not one EU referendum but multiple ones whenever the EU brings out a major treaty change. The current referendum plan offers no such guarantees. Furthermore, as I discussed previously in a prior post, many of the very things that are seen as causing friction with between the UK and Brussels, the conflict between the European Courts for example, would largely be resolved through a UK constitution, negating the need for any sort of renegotiation.

Should you be wondering if all I say is true, why isn’t every politician in the country signing up for a UK constitution? Well because, a constitution by its very nature puts a limit on government power. It blocks politicians from passing certain legislation without first getting the consent of the people. Courts are also constrained, as the constitution tend to decide how laws should be interpreted, not judges. Which is bad news if you’re one of the landed gentry used to buying the court rulings you want (such as those super injunctions!). Certainly, as events in the US prove, its still possible for the rich to buy the outcomes they want, but a constitution makes it a whole lot harder.

Of course this is the whole point of a constitution, a redistribution of power downwards…hence why even UKIP are against it!

A dangerous precedence
And to those who say, but we never got a vote on the EU, we want one now, well yes and did you get a vote on the privatisation of public services? Nor do I recall any vote on Trident, nor its retention. And the current Tory plans for the NHS, which seems to be to let it wither on the vine and then privatise it, well you ain’t getting a vote on that either!

A constitution would resolve these issues for future legislation. But the idea of having a retrospective referendum, as is proposed on the EU, is an unprecedented act in any democracy. It suggests that legislation passed by a previous government can simply be undone if you hold a referendum. Governments, either through referendum or otherwise, going back on legislation like this is a very rare event. About the only example I can think of is the repeal of prohibition in the 1930’s.

This sets a very dangerous legal precedence. For if ever a future hard left government were to come to power (and any economic downturn that were to follow an EU exit is exactly the sort of situation that could lead to that, just look at Greece!) they now have the perfect method to undo the legacy of Thatcher, Blair and practically every post-war Tory government in one parliamentary term. All they need to do is hold a few referendums.

The first one presumably to renationalise all public services (and opinion polls say such a policy would almost certainly go through), another to get rid of Trident, perhaps another one ends non-dom status and the property rights of the landowners (and puts a 75% tax on anyone educated in a private school I assume!), etc. Its the political equivalent of a military firing squad, seven rifles, one blank, nobody’s guilty.

In effect the Tories may one day curse they day they held this referendum as they watch everything they’ve fought for since the war dismantled in the blink of an eye.

The Issues
There are many good economic and political reasons to be euroskeptic (again I’m not suggesting the EU is perfect!). The original founder of UKIP, Alan Sked outlines a few, as does this libertarian blogger (although he eventually concludes that leaving rather than reforming the EU would be throwing the baby out with the bath water).

However my fear is that the referendum won’t be fought on such issues. Instead it will be fought on the terms of the tabloids, which means immigration and how darkies are here to steal you’re jobs, clog up motorways, claim benefits and commit crime or terrorism in whatever limited free time this busy schedule allows.

Migration is a legitimate political topic, but as I’ve discussed before, many of the things migrants are blamed for are largely untrue. And more importantly, its questionable to suggest that leaving the EU will allow the UK better control over immigration. Consider that Norway and Switzerland are both non-EU countries yet they still have serious immigration problems (per capita both receive more migrants than any EU country). The Swiss are actually a minority in their own country in certain cities (although admittedly the majority of said foreigners would be Germans, Italians, accountants for Mexican drug cartel’s, exiled dictators, megalomanic heads of world football ;D etc. not the sort of migrants that come to the UK!).

And the Norwegian foreign minster has been very clear that he thinks the UK is better off in the EU than out. The Japanese and have warned of likely job losses if the UK were to leave. And the Americans have made clear that the UK’s relationship with the US will be damaged by leaving the EU.

However such “facts” will not be part of the debate, as that have not featured in any debate on immigration recently. The question asked will be do you hate the French? The idea that the UK will leave the EU for entirely false reasons built on a tissue of lies and racist xenophobia would drastically undermine the democracy and the character of the UK. This will inevitably have far reaching cultural and economic consequences.

My two votes
Indeed another curve ball we need to consider is that by holding a referendum, the UK may hand its fate over to other states. Recall what I said about Ireland, and a number of other EU countries, and how they handle EU treaty changes. If Cameron continues to insist (as he is) that anything he gets out of the EU is incorporated into changes to past EU treaties this could very well provoke further referendums in multiple EU countries (including Ireland).

Keep in mind here that the government in Ireland (and other EU states) doesn’t always get to decide whether or not there should be a referendum – the supreme court often determines that. And in the past they have caught the government trying to sneak things through without a constitutional amendment and forced them to either drop the legislation, or hold a referendum before it can become law.

Thus we could see the situation where the UK votes to stay in, Ireland and say France, then vote to reject it, throwing the UK’s membership of the EU into chaos and uncertainty.

And least you say this sounds unlikely, I’ve been holding a sort of straw poll of Irish and other Europeans and putting the question to them “should we make special allowances to the EU just to keep the brits in?” I’ve so far yet to find anyone, not a single person, who would be willing to support such a bill…I won’t even vote for that myself! I could well get two votes in this referendum. One in the UK, yes to stay in, then got home to Ireland and vote no to reject the very deal Cameron is now negotiating.

And while Ireland and other EU states would have a vested interest in keeping the UK in, you’re being way too rational in making the assumption that this means a yes vote (keep in mind we Irish have a nasty habit of voting no at inconvenient times!). After all the UK has an even greater incentive to stay in (as in £215 billion reasons!) and yet there’s a sizeable number who will vote no regardless!

Chaos and uncertainty
Its very difficult to escape the conclusion that the aftermath of an EU vote will, far from resolving the issue, it will instead only lead to more uncertainty and confusion. After all we had a referendum a couple of months back in Scotland and while the Nat’s have gone quiet for now, the issue has certainly not gone away.

The balance of probability is a narrow yes to stay in. But that is unlikely to placate the bigot brigade, who will instead see it more as a target of the number of people they need to get to change their minds to win another future referendum.

Of course the end result is the UK plunged into several years of will they/won’t they uncertainty that will inevitably have a very negative effect on business. Particularly if, as noted, the re-negotiated deal Cameron is trying to get blows up in his face or is rejected by other EU electorates. Such a scenario will almost certainly split the Tory party.

And any vote to actually leave of course also creates greater uncertainty, particularly if its a close no, as seem likely. This is perhaps the worst case scenario, particularly given the rather foolish (and undemocratic decision) by Cameron to exclude EU citizens (including an MSP) from voting in it. After all would it be fair if say 52% voted in favour to leave? Out of a turn out of say 60%, with 1.5m denied a vote, meaning a margin of 29% of the electorate voting for something that dramatically effects the well being of the other 71%.

Such a result will almost certainly be challenged in the courts. Not just by individual voters but by companies, who will be able to show very real and credible economic damage to their business, as well as hire lots of crafty lawyers to make sure it gets argued over for who knows how long.

Recall the major hole in the SNP’s strategy was there were gaps in their independence plan big enough to fit a bus through. However there is no plan for Brexit. The holes here are big enough to sail the Queen Mary through! It would take a good few years to negotiate the terms of the UK’s exit. And the UK would also have to renegotiate trade deals and its membership of various international bodies, all of which are conditional on the UK being an EU member.

The result will be several years of economic uncertainty. Keep in mind that if the UK wanted a quick and easy deal to exit the EU, the obvious terms would be the same as those the Swiss and Norwegians have – open borders, free trade an agreement, agreeing to keep most existing EU laws on the UK’s books and an agreement to speedily pass any future EU trade related rules.

However this immediately counters the very propaganda driving for Brexit and I can’t see how any future PM could hold a straight face and sign that! (and he sure as hell ain’t going to get it passed by another referendum!). So its likely that any exit talks will stall pretty quickly and could drag on for years.

And obviously if you’re the nationalists in Scotland and Wales, or the Republicans in NI…or even a supporter of Cornwall’s independence for that matter, one can scarcely thing of a better time to hold a referendum and break away from the UK than an extended period of economic and constitutional anarchy in Westminster. Legally, it will be very difficult as it is for London to leave the EU, without the consent and support of the regions. So you can probably guess what they’ll be looking for in return!

About the only scenario where I can see NI and the south unifying or Wales/Scotland breaking away is a Brexit scenario, particularly if the nationalist get to steal the UK’s seat at the EU table.

Election promises
But Cameron promised I hear some say, he practically pinky swore! Yes, well this might come as a shock, but politicians have a track record of promising things at elections which they then renege on in government 88|. And in some respects they have too. Like I said their job is to ensure stable government, not act as facilitators of mob rule.

My gripe with the lib dems wasn’t that the reneged on their promises with regard to tuition fees. Its the fact that they made such a promise in the first place knowing full well they could never possibly keep it while in power with the Tories.

Similarly the Tories have made a political promise they can’t possibly keep. At least if they still want to call themselves a responsible party of government and any better than UKIP. If they follow through with this referendum it will drastically change the landscape of the UK politically and they made not survive the consequences of that.

British Culture wars

Britain’s traditional way of life is under attack…or so I’m constantly told by the Daily Mail. This term is often used by UKIP supporters to justify their many myths on immigration and demands for “Brexit”. It is also their principle means of deflecting any attention on the negative economic consequences of any move towards Brexit.

However I wonder if they are correct in these assertions about threats to British culture and whether leaving the EU would solve such perceived problems…or do more harm than good!

The Numbers game
Firstly, the numbers. The latest info from the ONS puts net migration at 318,000. While this is high, its not the highest its ever been (that was 2005). The breakdown is that roughly 13% of entrants to the UK are British (who still count as net migrants if returning to the UK to live), 45% from outside the EU and the remaining 42% come from within the EU.

Of that 42% coming from the EU the largest proportion (50%) come from the EU15 countries, i.e. the original EU countries (France, Germany, etc.). 30% come from the EU8 (Scandinavia, Central and Eastern Europe), with just 19% coming from the EU2 (Romania & Bulgaria). So, far from the UK being swapped with hordes of Romanians, in truth they represent just 8% of those coming to the UK, half the number of British who re-enter the country each year.

Who is an immigrant?
While certainly there has been a sharp rise in migrant numbers recently (as noted), this has to be put within a historical context. There is nothing new about migration into the UK. From the arrival of the Celts and Romans to the Windrush, people travelling to Britain is part of the nation’s history. Farage himself is of Huguenot stock (hence the French sounding name). The Queen is more German than British (house Windsor was known as house Saxe-Coburg-Gotha until midway through WW1) and married to a Greek. So the sort of harsh migration policy talked about by some would represent a significant and historical change, one that will inevitably have consequences (such as the Queen & her husband needing to get a work permit!).

And it’s worth reflecting on the fact that “foreign born” (which counts not just migrants but their siblings and those now with British passports) represent only 13% of the UK population. One has to wonder how 13% can threaten the culture of the remaining 87%.

And until recently, the largest contributor of migrants to the UK was Ireland (a traditional that predates the EU of course). Those from the Indian subcontinent have been the largest source of migrants to the UK since 2011 (not Romania, nor Eastern Europe, nor anything to do with the EU).

Either way, to simply blame migration on the EU, doesn’t fit with the facts and figures and is little short of a fabrication by people either too lazy (or too stupid) to look them up, or perhaps borne out of a deliberate attempt to con and mislead the UK public. Thus one has to question how leaving the EU would solve the problem….if indeed there is a problem!

Furthermore, it should be remembered that the bulk of population growth in recent years has been down to demographic changes, i.e. people living longer.

And speaking of which, another all too common claim is that migrants can overwhelm NHS hospitals and increase waiting lists. While certainly migrants have put some pressure on the NHS its likely to be tiny compared to the pressure put on the 87% of the population who are British and predominantly older, quite apart from when we factor in the effects of poor diet and sedentary life style among many British. Given that the majority of migrants tend to be younger they are therefore far less likely to need to visit a hospital or GP.

And given that, most migrants tend to work and pay taxes, they will inevitably be contributing more to NHS funding than it costs to treat them on the rare occasions they do end up in a hospital. And of course more than a few migrants work as doctors and nurses. As one doctor put it, you’re more likely to see a migrant working in the hospital than sitting in the waiting room.

Instead I would argue the major reason behind the pressure on the NHS is a systematic failure of prior governments to adequately fund the NHS. Funding should have been increased to mean more hospitals being built and more beds added, in particular nursing and care home places (to get around so called “bed blocking”, again something that’s an inevitable result of an ageing population), when instead in some parts of the country the opposite has been happening, particularly driven by Tory cuts.

So I don’t really think we can blame migrants for this one. Indeed, with those from within the EU its worth remembering that there is a system in place that allows the UK to reclaim healthcare costs from other EU countries when their citizens are treated in the UK. There are holes in this system, however the solution is more cooperation with EU allies on this, not less. And keep in mind that with all those British retiree’s living down in Spain, Britain’s hardly got the moral high ground here.

Migrants are also blamed for causing changes in the UK’s religious mix. As most will know, church attendances have been falling for some time in the UK, while those subscribing to other religions, notably Islam, has been rising. That said, Muslims only make up 4.4% of the UK population v’s 42% Christians. And of all the things we could blame the EU for, I don’t think this is one of them. For those UKIP members who’ve never been past Dover (keep in mind they mistook Westminster Cathedral for a mosque once!), I think you’ll find that Europe is predominantly white and Christian.

Indeed, given that many of those from Eastern Europe tend to be devout Catholics, their arrival has led to increased numbers at church attendances. And many immigrants from places such as West Africa tend to be Protestants, helping to swell numbers in these churches too. So to blame immigrants for this is probably not being entirely fair. If anything immigration, in particular those from the EU, is having the opposite effect.

Certainly there are some worrying stories coming out about attempts to turn some British state schools into defacto madrasas. With even more worrying again stories about what goes on inside Islamic faith schools. However this is perhaps the inevitable consequences of allowing religious teaching to get mixed up with normal schooling. And the present government’s utterly disastrous system of “academies” and “free schools” has hardly helped the situation.

While I won’t advise going to the extremes of the US, where merely mentioned the “G word” in a school will result in you being marched off the premises. But clearly schools in the UK, both public and private, should be required to keep all religious teaching outside of normal school hours and only teach it to kids who are old enough.

Of course Indians and Pakistani’s have had a significant impact on British life. Some slight changes to religious demographics are just one of them, but then there’s the impact on the British diet. However, I won’t really consider the Chicken Tikka Masala (which is probably of British origin anyway) a threat to anything…although that depends if it’s before or after beer! 😳

And it’s not as if armies of Paki’s go roaming British streets ripping pork pies out of people’s mouths and forcing them to eat curry. I’m reminded of this sketch from “goodness gracious me” where a group of Mumbai Indians get tanked up every Friday night and go for an English.

Curry and other exotic foods (or things like Mediterranean style salads and olive oil) might have been brought to the UK by immigrants, but they are being eaten in preference to traditional British food by the choice of British people. This is what the rest of us call “capitalism”. And given that such a diet tends to be healthier, I fail to see how its a threat to anybody.

One complain about migrants is how they speak foreign languages and this makes some feel uncomfortable. And do you feel equally uncomfortable in France, where (surprise, surprise) everyone speaks a foreign language? Whatever you do Farage, don’t go visit a Welsh village! In any event, most EU migrants do speak English and often one of their reasons for coming to the UK is work experience while improving their English.

There is an issue with some migrants, notably those from further afield, such as India/Pakistan who’ve never really integrated and still act like they are back home in Lahore, including wearing Muslim dress and speaking their home language. However that’s hardly something we can blame on the EU. And as many of them have British passports or indefinite leave to remain, stricter migration controls are unlikely suddenly convince them to start talking English. And it is sort of a free country, so if quite frankly someone wants to speak Klingon or Swahili day to day (or dress up as a Klingon!), they do sort of have the right to do that.

There is certainly an issue with well-meaning councils and government departments, anxious to counter exploitation of migrants (by traffickers or slum landlords), printing a lot of material in languages other than English, or spend large amounts on translation services. There is perhaps an argument to be had for ending this practice. In essence, don’t come and live in the UK unless you can speak English. But this has to be balanced against the fact that the best way to deal with a number of social issues is by making sure migrants can communicate with their local authorities.

Pub culture
What about beer and British pubs? Certainly it is true that pubs in rural areas, as well as the traditional working man’s bar are under threat. Many have been closing down. However, the same thing is happening in Ireland, which I don’t think we can blame on immigrants (given that most arrivals to Ireland are Poles who drink as much as the Irish!).

Irish publicans are certainly of the opinion that the reasons for this decline in trade are the smoking ban, changes in taxes on alcohol, stricter drink driving laws and government austerity (leading to people cutting back on expenses such as going to the pub). So again, I don’t think you could blame immigrants for this one.

If anything immigrants, in particular those from the EU, have led to a very positive trend in British pub culture. On the continent people tend to drink with food. So many UK pubs have therefore begun to do pub grub, increasingly to much higher standards (beyond the traditional pork pie and crisps).

Migrants from EU states with beer drinking traditions, such as Poland, Czech Rep and Germany also brought their beer with them. This led to the realisation among British brewers that they could in fact sell things other than Lager, while Irish brewers realised there was no law stopping them brewing something other than stout. The result has been an explosion in microbreweries in the UK (and Ireland), with many new breweries popping up and many new bars specialising in the sale of such ales.

So I would argue that what’s happened has been that the traditional British pub hasn’t become extinct, it’s simply evolving. And lest we forget, its doing so because many in the country (not just immigrants) are voting with their feet and choosing the real ale or gastropub over the traditional drinking den. Something for Farage to mull over next time he’s sounding off against the EU while enjoying a real ale in a pub.

What about crime levels? Do migrants cause crime? Should we be worried, as Farage suggests, if Romanians move in next door? Well statistics show that when immigrants move into an area, crime rates generally fall.

Certainly this is an unfair generalisation. It probably relates to the fact that most migrants to the UK are predominately of working age and employed or seeking employment and tend not to be burdened with the sort of major social problems that often leads some UK citizens to crime. One has to assume a few bad eggs get through, but it’s not as if we’re short of homegrown criminals in the UK!

Contrary to popular tabloid myths, criminals can’t simply walk into the UK. There are measures to control their movements and make sure police forces across the EU are aware of a suspects criminal past, as well as ensuring rapid deportation of any, should an arrest warrant be issued (although funnily enough. Ironically in fact, many of the euroskeptics want to do away with these rules, no doubt worried about themselves getting deported one day (when their financial and tax avoidance crimes catch up with them).

The measure of things
And before anyone brings up the old chestnut of the metric system we might want to debunk a few myths here. Certainly the EU favours the metric system, as in fact does virtually every government on the planet earth, other than the US. But it has largely left it up to individual EU members to implement any change over to metric units. It is worth noting that Britain’s transition to metric units started in the 1960’sbefore the UK joined!

In Ireland for example, we swapped all speed limits from miles to km’s in 2005. We did this because anyone educated in Ireland since 1970 hasn’t got a clue what a mile is, the cars themselves are usually designed using the metric system (in my uni we certainly teach all our classes to future engineers in metric) and most of the legislation relating to vehicles (both Irish and EU) is written in terms of metric units. Even the Irish Ordnance survey maps have long been worked out in metric (as have the British ones incidentally). So really it was a case of the government in Ireland deciding to bite the bullet.

We still sell pints in Ireland, although even here I’d argue the metric 330ml serving offers advantages, as this is about the correct amount of beer for a light pub lunch. Two 330ml’s, particularly of the stronger European beers will also put you in that happy medium of being ever so slightly drunk, meaning you’re feeling the effects of alcohol, but without slurring you’re speech or feeling the urge to act like a tit.

They’re taking out jobs!
But I digress! Migrants “takin our jobs” is one you hear a lot from the tabloids. However, as a number of recent reports make clear (which probably explains why one of them was suppressed by Teresa May) there is very little evidence migrants are “taking jobs”. In fact the evidence suggests they are more job and economic growth creators.

Part of the reason why migrants are coming in is because there are jobs available in the UK and more often than not they are filling posts where there is a significant shortage of skilled workers (some even call it a “skills crisis”). Bottom line, if firms, such as Airbus, can’t hire the people they want here (or they get smothered under red tape filling out visa’s), they’ll move elsewhere.

In a globalised world its not so much foreigners coming over here and stealing you’re job we must fear but foreigners staying at home and your job moving abroad. Advocating any sort of system that allocates work on the basis of where you’re born stinks of national socialism, something that will send companies running for the exit.

Either way, the fact is that the UK is an ageing country and that means there is a need to bring in young people to keep the economy going and to pay taxes to fund the pensions of those who have retired. And its also difficult to ignore the fact that the bulk of UKIP support seems to come from economic black spots like the ex-seaside resort towns of the South East, where there are actually few migrants (they have the good sense to move!)

Migrant myths
Clearly neither immigration nor the EU are responsible for the many things blamed on them. Much of this is the product of various right wing myths and outright fabrications.

As I discussed in a prior post, Britain is not “full” by any stretch of the imagination. The bulk of population growth is (as noted) due to increased life spans and a higher birth rate. Pressure on public services, social housing, schools or overcrowded trains is due to the fact that successive governments have failed to plan ahead and funding has failed to match rising demand. This funding gap is largely due to their unwillingness to tax the very wealthy, who have seen their net income soar over the last few decades, while paying very little in tax.

The problem with racism and bigotry is that it involves taking the intellectually easy way out, as it amounts to blaming others for your problems. It amounts to passing the buck onto an easily ostracized minority rather than excepting the truth that the finger of blame must be pointed a little closer to home. In the end it’s reasonable to conclude that the bulk of Britain’s problems are a consequence of decisions made by the 87% who aren’t foreign born…notably the decision to vote into power a party who represent the richest 1%.