Sunday 29 March 2015
One reason why this election campaign seems so trivial and unreal, writes Booker, is the number of important national issues that will scarcely be mentioned. Several of these, he says, he will cover in the weeks ahead. But high on the list is our reckless and dangerous national energy policy. Last week, scarcely noticed south of the border, came the news of the premature closure of Britain's second largest power station.
The giant Longannet plant in Fife, with its 2,400-megawatt capacity, can still supply two thirds of all Scotland's average electricity needs.
The reasons given for Longannet's closure early next year were partly the crippling cost of the Government's "carbon" taxes and the additional £40 million it is being charged for connection to the grid. But the immediate trigger for the decision was Longannet’s failure to win a contract to supply back-up for Scotland’s ever-rising number of wind farms at times when there is insufficient wind.
Even Scotland’s energy minister, Fergus Ewing, called the closure of Longannet "a national scandal", laying the blame squarely on "Westminster"” – which is curious considering that his government's policy is that by 2020 Scotland should produce 100 per cent of its electricity from "renewables". (In other words, that it should be able to rely on unsubsidised back-up from fossil fuel plants in England when there is too little wind, while selling heavily subsidised wind power back to England when there is too much.)
But Longannet's real crime is that the 4.5 million tons of coal it burns each year make it the biggest CO2 emitter in Scotland. Which is also, of course, why we will hear nothing about Britain's energy future in this election: because all the major parties are signed up to the policy set in train by Ed Miliband's Climate Change Act committing us to reduce our "carbon" emissions by 80 per cent within 35 years.
The policy on which they are all agreed, set out in the Coalition's "2050 Pathways for tackling climate change", centres on three main steps, each more bizarre than the last. Step one is that we should "decarbonise" our economy, not just by closing down the coal and gas-fired power stations that supply more than 70 per cent of our electricity, but by chucking out all those gas appliances 90 per cent of us use for cooking and heating.
Step two is that we should double our production of electricity, which we would then use, not just for cooking and heating but also for virtually all our transport (electric cars, trains etc). Step three is that all this electricity should be generated from "zero carbon" sources, mainly from thousands more wind turbines and a fleet of new nuclear power stations.
The only problem is that none of this insane make-believe can possibly come about. When the wind doesn't blow, the only power to keep our lights on, our homes heated and our electric cars running would be that from those supposed new nuclear power stations.
At the present rate, with only one new nuclear power plant dubiously in view by 2024, producing electricity four times as expensive as that from coal, not even tens of thousands of diesel generators could produce enough back-up power to keep our computer-dependent economy functioning at all. (Last Tuesday evening, wind was producing less than one per cent of the power we were using).
But not a word of this will we hear in the election campaign: partly because all our main political parties have signed up to it, but even more because virtually none of our politicians have the slightest clue what it is they are signed up to.
Saturday 28 March 2015
As we remarked earlier, the press we used to part with money for is now not worth a dime, and readers of this blog know you can get better elsewhere for free. That said, most people do not want better. What most people want is shallow and crass commentary which affirms their existing prejudices. That is why Breitbart exists. When it comes to the real issues, most of the right don't want to know.
Half the problem is that anything which complicates a narrative, anything that challenges a long
held belief system is something of a threat - and the response is to
attack it out of ignorance. It's becoming increasingly difficult to find
people who want to step into the world of adult politics.
of demand for any real analysis on most pressing issues from Child Sexual Exploitation, immigration and the EU leaves us out on our own struggling to be heard. This is not surprising. It's not easy stuff, it's not as easily digestible
as hackneyed libertarian tract, its dry, it's uninspiring and it's not
something you can dip in and out of and expect to stay informed.
More to the point, it's deadly boring in some cases and it can't be dumbed down. It's made worse by the fact that the more you learn the less you
know, and the more of your settled narratives you have to throw into the
Some readers have remarked that that we're talking to a very small niche of a very small niche in terms of Brexit. We are acutely aware of this. But this it's something that has to be done right or not at all. Eventually we will be in a position to take the finished Flexcit project and break it down so it can be better communicated, but until then there are only so many hours in the day.
So for the time being all we can do is thank our readers for meeting us half way in attempting to understand it. We have always viewed blogging as a two way process whereby readers have to invest to gain any return - and invested you have, which is to our credit. That said, an investment of another sort wouldn't go amiss. You know where the donate button is.
Saturday 28 March 2015
The Spectator blog is publishing a list of a dozen predictions on the outcome of the general election. And, as one might expect, they are all over the place, proving that, whether experts or not, guesses are still guesses.
One interesting thing though is that the current average prediction for Ukip seats stands at 3.3, down from 6.6 in the Political Studies Association's survey last February.
That downwards trend is endorsed by YouGov, which would also have us believe the voters think that Ukip is the sleaziest party. But then, as Autonomous Mind recently noted, comedian Russell Brand has been voted the world’s fourth most important thinker by readers of the "intellectual" magazine Prospect.
AM thus suggests that the team at Prospect deserve to be feeling rather deflated about the calibre of their readership and, in like manner, YouGov might want to feel the same about their polling panel.
When it comes to the New Statesman though, it would be hard to tell the difference between readers and writers, but then the same might be said of this piece in the Spectator. Basically, when it comes to intelligent political commentary, the legacy media have lost the plot, just as they have with so many issues.
If you want sense, these days, you have to go elsewhere, such as here
Friday 27 March 2015
The minimal coverage given to Owen Paterson's Heritage speech tells its own story, but even our venal media should have made something of his responses to questions. As it is, only Huff Post picks them up, having Paterson say that "we would lose an 'out' referendum" because his "optimistic vision" has not been explained. "And 'out' is frightening", he added, "it's unknown and people will hang onto nurse".
Paterson's view is that, "we have to go the whole hog, get back to the trade arrangement, but we need time to explain there is a positive destination". He thinks we have "the most spectacular future outside the political and judicial arrangements [of the EU], embracing the trade, commercial and economic aspects", he said. "But at the moment that has not been explained".
"There is a protest party", Ukip, that has done no absolutely no work on the detail [of how to leave]", Paterson told the Americans, "and they are being attacked, quite rightly, for that because their image is backward looking and negative".
As a result, those like him agitating for the United Kingdom to leave the EU needed more time to persuade voters it was a good idea.
There, writ large, is precisely the predicament we're in, on which we elaborated recently, on the back of the YouGov poll that put the "inners" ten points ahead for the second month running.
By coincidence, yesterday we saw the publication of the British Social Attitudes Survey, which very much confirms the YouGov findings. It has 57 percent wanting to continue with EU membership, with only 35 percent wanting to withdraw.
As with YouGov, when a more nuanced question is asked, offering different options, the position changes. Those who want to leave the EU drop to 24 percent, while those who would like to see an attempt made to reduce its powers stands at 38 percent. Only 18 percent want to leave things as they are, ten percent want the EU to have more powers, and four percent want a single (European) government.
The Social Attitudes Survey thus sees most people as being "eurosceptic", defined as wanting to leave the EU, or seeing it with reduced powers. But therein lies the fatal confusion – the "reformers" are not "outers" and it cannot be assumed that they will vote to leave the EU in any referendum.
Here, Paterson's point has particular force. The "eurosceptics" are split between leavers and reformers, and – of the former – there are irreconcilable splits between different groups and sub-sets, and no clarity of vision from the main players.
If there has been any change, it is that these splits are being recognised, although there are no indications that different factions are prepared to debate the issues – or even explore the issues dispassionately.
Thus we have the likes of Ruth Lea arguing for the "WTO option" without troubling to explain why she has suddenly deserted the Swiss Option. And we also have Roger Helmer who tells us that UKIP cannot accept any deal, even an interim deal, that doesn't give us control of our borders.
This is the man who is confident that the UK could negotiate a free trade agreement with the EU but, like so many of his ilk, he simply doesn't do detail.
Presumably Mr Helmer expects the UK to work within the provisions of Article 50, so one assumes that he would be content to wait the ten or more years that it would take the negotiations to reach an agreement. And, all the while we would remain in the EU, paying the contributions, fully committed to freedom of movement – just because Mr Helmer doesn't like interim solutions.
On the other hand, if we went for the "Norway option" they hate so much – or "model" if you must – we could be out in two years, ready to negotiate a longer-term solution, which would include dealing with the vexed question of freedom of movement.
Meanwhile, the FUD flows and the lies proliferate. They are easy to rebut - although far too difficult for the aristocracy.
And that is perhaps the underlying problem. The eurosceptic "aristocracy" have long ceased thinking. And they are, of course, far too grand to debate issues with mere mortals - or get down in the weeds, where the real fighting is going on. Thus, their arguments are fixed in aspic, going nowhere and inspiring no one.
Along with Ukip, they are set to lose us the referendum – if we let them.
Thursday 26 March 2015
Flagged up at the weekend by the Sunday Telegraph, Owen Paterson has now delivered his speech to Heritage, at the Thatcher Center in Washington. The full text is here.
As with the Europe speech, on which it is loosely based, this has hidden depths, but readers will particularly appreciate this passage:
In short, and this is critical for Americans to understand, it is not so much that Britain should leave the EU, as that the EU is leaving us. It is critical to understand that the economic Single Market and the political EU are not one and the same thing. The Single Market is a formal fact under an arrangement called the European Economic Area (EEA). It is an agreement between EU member states and three of the four members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) -- Norway, Iceland, and Lichtenstein minus Switzerland.
Even at the eleventh hour, I understand, there were attempts to stop Paterson saying that, and you can get a hint of how strident the critics are becoming, from this presentation chaired by Roger Helmer, who dismisses the Norway Option" out of hand, despite one of the speakers being Robert Oulds, who is to speak in support of the proposition.
By switching our membership to the EEA, Britain can pursue participation in the Single Market without being strapped in the EU’s political and judicial straightjacket. And if we joined EFTA, often described as the "Norway Option", it would become the fourth largest trade bloc in the world.
Confusing membership of the Single Market with membership of the EU is a common error. You can stay in the Single Market and not be in the EU. And the argument that leaving the EU would damage Britain's ability to continue its trade with our European neighbours – thereby damaging the economy of the entire developed world including the US - massively underestimates the huge strategic and selfish interest that our neighbours have in ensuring our continued vigorous participation in the Single Market.
One can note here the behaviour of Helmer, who is effusive in his praise of the increasingly tiresome Ruth Lea, and her promotion of the suicidal catastrophic "WTO option", yet can barely conceal his dislike for what Robert had to say.
Oulds's speech is worth listening to in full, and especially where he offers Delors as a "teaser", reminding us that on 17 January 1989 to the European Parliament, he spoke to idea of getting the EEA started. But the Commission President's vision, at the time, was of a "European village", in which he saw a house called the "European Community". "We are its sole architects; we are the keepers of its keys", he said, "but we are prepared to open its doors to talk with our neighbours".
Delors was actually proposing to the EFTA member states a "more structured partnership with common decision-making and administrative institutions", basically acknowledging the presence of equal partners in the "European village".
There is more than a hint of this in Owen Paterson's speech, when he argues that our exit from the EU "will strengthen both the global trading system and the foundations of global security". This is, he says, in tune with what Churchill told the House of Commons in June 1950 when he said:
With our position as the centre of the British Empire and Commonwealth and with our fraternal association with the United States in the English-speaking world, we could not accept full membership of a federal system of Europe.
Churchill went on to say:
We must find our path to world unity through the United Nations organisation, which I hope will be re-founded one day upon three or four regional groups, of which a united Europe should certainly be one. By our unique position in the world, Great Britain has an opportunity, if she is worthy of it, to play an important and possibly a decisive part in all the three larger groupings of the Western democracies. Let us make sure that we are worthy of it.
Here is also a version of the "European village", but one which fits in as one of upon three or four regional groups, which themselves are part of the United Nations.
This in turn reflects Churchill's speech to the Congress of Europe at The Hague on 7 May 1948. Then, with others, he argued for the United Nations to be the "paramount authority" in world affairs, but with regional bodies as part of the structure. They would be "august but subordinate", becoming "the massive pillars upon which the world organisation would be founded in majesty and calm".
Although he didn't specifically mention it by name, as far a Europe was concerned, Churchill was referring to UNECE, which had been founded in 1947, with some of the history told here. This, in effect, is the "European village" to which Delors could have been referring, in which the EU and EFTA were but individual "houses" with the same right of decision-making on Single Market rules.
Robert Oulds, in his address, tells us that, exactly a year later, Delors rescinded his offer of common decision-making. By then the Berlin wall had fallen and the EU was eyeing the former Soviet satellites as new members, and did not want to make life outside the EU too attractive.
But, with the EU poised to leave the UK, the moment again is arriving when the EU must concede common decision-making by different "houses" in the "European village", for which purpose Owen Paterson has already suggested UNECE as a suitable forum.
The Americans, yesterday, would not necessarily have understood his nuanced references, but gradually we are seeing the emergence of a credible, long-term alternative to the EU, and one which – oddly enough – Churchill was advocating back in 1950, when he was rejecting the idea of joining Mr Monnet's first supranational government.
Wednesday 25 March 2015
Published yesterday was the latest YouGov poll on EU sentiment, and it does not make good reading. The ten-point lead for the "inners" established in February is maintained – at 46 percent in favour of remaining in the EU as opposed to 36 percent who would vote to leave in a referendum.
Faced with renegotiations and a recommendation from Mr Cameron that we should stay in, the percentage supporting the EU rises to 57 percent, with only 21 percent wanting to leave – much the same as it was last month.
If there is any consolation to be taken from these figures, one could at least observe that the "Ukip paradox" is broken – the phenomenon where, as Ukip popularity increased, support for leaving the EU declined. As it stands, support for Ukip is currently declining – down to 12 percent according to YouGov and a mere ten percent according to ComRes in the Daily Mail.
If Farage actually knew what shame was, now would be a good time to show it. His tenure as leader of Ukip has delivered what is, on the face of it, an unwinnable hand. Even if Mr Cameron gains a victory at the general election, and gives us a referendum, the chances of winning it must be slight.
Not a little of this must be attributable to Mr Farage's failure to ensure that his party produced a credible exit plan, on top of a clear vision of what a post-exit Britain would look like. Instead, he has ceded the ground to the charlatans of Open Europe and the like, who are so successfully muddying the waters.
OE is even now fielding its chairman, Rodney Leach, who has come out of the woodwork to tell Reuters that: "Transforming Britain into the deregulated, free trading economy it would need to become outside the EU sounds easy in theory, but in practice would come up against some serious political resistance within the UK itself", thus knocking down the straw man of Open Europe's making.
Even Roger Helmer is beginning to realise that OE is not batting on the same side but, having given this Europhile think-tank such a head start, it is going to be very difficult to claw back lost ground – even if Ukip was capable of doing it, which does not look to be the case.
The essential requirement, though, is actually relatively simple – to the extend that Ryan Bourne, head of public policy at the Institute of Economic Affairs, has managed to work it out – even if his message is a tad inconsistent.
He nevertheless says that, if the outers want to win a referendum, "they need to neutralise the economic issue by showing that Britain would be no worse off outside". He adds: "The evidence suggests that, with broadly sensible policies, this is achievable".
That is actually straight from Flexcit (and about the only place you will see it), where the "Norway Option" combined with repatriation of the acquis offers a cost-neutral solution to leaving the EU, and buys time to negotiate a longer-term solution, once we have left.
What we must also do in this context is continually emphasise – as has Owen Paterson been doing - that the Single Market and the political baggage of the European Union are not one and the same. It is possible to leave the EU and remain in the Single Market – which is precisely what the Norway Option - or the "Norway Model" if you prefer – aims to do.
By this means, we can easily address the fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD), delivered by the likes of Standard Life Chairman Gerry Grimstone, who on the one hand tells us that, "leaving the European Union would be disastrous for Britain and harm its economy" and then in the same breath declares: "It would be disastrous for London and the UK if the UK were to leave the single market".
But it is a measure of the inadequacy of the "eurosceptic" response that we have Robert Oxley, campaign director of Business for Britain, condemning Grimstone for joining in "the scaremongering that life outside of the EU would be disastrous for the UK" – without any attempt to draw the distinction between EU and Single Market membership.
And, while Oxley bleats about the cost of "EU financial regulation", if he lifted his horizons somewhat, he would see from the New York Times that the regulatory agenda is global, with the sub-regional EU only marginally involved in primary standard-setting.
This, though, so much typifies the state of the anti-EU campaign. On the one hand we have the incompetence of Mr Farage and, on the other, the London-based think-tanks entertaining themselves with increasingly arcane and irrelevant arguments – much in the manner that climate-change has degraded into a tedious squabble between rival pundits.
Amid all this, too few people are focusing on what it actually takes to win a referendum. Even if some in Civitas are beginning to steer in the right direct, this is too little, and risks being too late. It leaves us ten points behind in the polls, and still prey to the charlatans who would have us lose the campaign before it even starts. If we are going to win, this is not the way to do it.
Tuesday 24 March 2015
Of all the nonsense dribbled out by the London-based think-tank claque and their fellow travellers, none is quite as pernicious as the constant discussion on EU regulation and the benefits EU withdrawal might bring, especially in terms of the "deregulation" which is supposedly on offer.
Most commentary simply betrays profound ignorance, not only of how industry and trade works, but also of the practical application of regulation in today's society. We even find, in many instances, an almost total lack of appreciation of the nature of regulation – why it actually exists, and the roles it fulfils.
In that context, it is worth going back a little to a paper written in January 2013 (picked out by one of our own commenters), written by Anu Bradford, professor of law at the Columbia Law School. Entitled, "The Brussels Effect: The Rise of a Regulatory Superstate in Europe", it offers important insights into the way regulation works and – of particularly relevance – why it is that certain regulations predominate at global level, and not others.
Without putting too fine a point on it, this paper kicks into touch many of the ill-informed posturing of those who would argue that there is any immediate regulatory relief to be had from leaving the EU. But, as with many things of value in this world, the argument is relatively complex. There are no short-cuts, when it comes to trying to understand the issues.
With that in mind, summarising Anu Bradford's paper is extraordinarily difficult. It is over-long, not well structured, and repetitious. However, in attempting to sum it up, one has to say that the paper is a slow burn, with Bradford telling us that "a deeply underestimated aspect of European power that the discussion on globalisation and power politics overlooks: Europe's unilateral power to regulate global markets".
The European Union, she writes, sets the global rules across a range of areas, such as food, chemicals, competition, and the protection of privacy. EU regulations have a tangible impact on the everyday lives of citizens around the world. To her specific audience, she adds, few Americans are aware that EU regulations determine the makeup they apply in the morning: the cereal they eat for breakfast, the software they use on their computer, and the privacy settings they adjust on their Facebook page.
The EU, we learn, also sets the rules governing the interoffice phone directory they use to call a co-worker. EU regulations dictate what kind of air conditioners Americans use to cool their homes and why their children no longer find soft plastic toys in their McDonald's Happy Meals. This phenomenon, the "Brussels Effect", is the focus of her article.
From there, we begin to get an explanation of what is called "unilateral regulatory globalisation", a process that occurs when a single state is able to externalise its laws and regulations outside its borders through market mechanisms, resulting in the globalisation of standards.
En route to exploring this phenomenon, Bradford takes a look at the so-called "California Effect" where, due to its large market and preference for strict consumer and environmental regulations, California is, at times, effectively able to set the regulatory standards for all the other states.
Businesses willing to export to California must meet its standards, and the prospect of scale economies from uniform production standards gives these firms an incentive to apply this same (strict) standard to their entire production.
This effect expand to become the "Brussels effect", when firms trading internationally find that it is not legally or technically feasible, or economically viable, to maintain different standards in different markets.
When trading with the EU requires foreign companies to adjust their conduct or production to EU standards - which often represent the most stringent standards - or else forgo the EU market entirely, they tend to adopt those standards uniformly throughout their entire enterprises.
We saw this in our interview Bjorn Knudtsen, Chairman of the Codex Fish and Fisheries Product Committee. He told us that, when it comes to Norway, trade in fish and fisheries products is a vital national interest, with 95 percent of products, worth €3 billion annually, being exported. And as an exporting country, he said – like other major exporters – strict regulatory standards are a necessary and acceptable price to pay for what he terms "certainty".
Companies preparing a product for export did not know from the outset the destination of any particular batch. Therefore, they wanted to be able to produce to a generic standard which would be accepted in any and every country to which the product might be despatched. They don't want to be producing different batches to different standards.
Thus, we find processors adopting the highest posted standard, as a means of ensuring that the product has access to the largest number of markets. This, Bradford elaborates on, when she argues that, while the EU regulates only its internal market, multinational corporations often have an incentive to standardise their production globally and adhere to a single rule.
It is this mechanism which converts the EU rule into a global rule - the "de facto Brussels Effect". Then, when these export-oriented firms have adjusted their business practices to meet the EU's strict standards, they often have the incentive to lobby their domestic governments to adopt these same standards in an effort to level the playing field against their domestic, non-export-oriented competitors - the "de jure Brussels Effect".
Interestingly, Bradford sees other states are lacking power to affect this process. Countries whose regulatory preferences are overridden by the EU's standards gain nothing by entering into a regulatory race with the EU. Outpacing the EU only leave them with even higher, and hence less desirable, regulatory standards.
As to international institutions, these are regarded as having only an imperfect ability to dampen the EU's regulatory ambitions, which – argues Bradford – means that the greatest check on the EU's regulatory powers comes from within the EU itself. As the EU's powers grow, internal divisions within the EU will increase. In the end, she says, the boundaries of the EU's regulatory reach will be defined by the EU's own evolving conception of the limits of its regulatory authority.
Here, we have to disagree with the Bradford script, as she fails to mention the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, to which the EU is bound and which is increasingly defining the regulatory agenda. Once that is factored in, one sees that international institutions have far greater influence than Anu Bradford would allow.
Nevertheless, Bradford's article is helpful in further exploring the "California Effect" and its transformation in the "Brussels Effect". Existing scholarship, she says, recognises the importance of market size and scale economies as a source of a jurisdiction's external regulatory clout. There are, she says, additional factors, which can prevent a company from producing different varieties for different markets and thereby give effect to the "Brussels Effect".
Wading through this over-long paper (running to 67 pages), the essence is that the "effect" has its greatest impact when Brussels wins the "race to the top". In other words, it is the highest, or strictest standard that wins out, at global level, and for the reasons already set out. This is summed up in one paragraph, telling us that:
… export-oriented EU firms to seek consistent and predictable regulatory frameworks. Uniform regulations have abolished obstacles for doing business within the common market - it is more complicated and costly to comply with multiple, sometimes conflicting regulations than with a harmonised regulatory scheme. And once all European firms have incurred the adjustment costs of conforming to common European standards, they have preferred that those standards are institutionalised globally. Hence, to level the playing field and ensure the competitiveness of European firms, EU corporations have sought to export these standards to third countries.
This is the crunch issue. As trade has globalised, so has regulation, and when it comes to the choice of standard, firms will always opt for the most demanding, simply because it is cheaper and more efficient to work to a single standard than it is to work to multiple standards.
Thus, anyone who thinks that leaving the EU is going to bring about the fabled bonfire of regulation is deluding themselves. Trade may be driven by the demand for goods and services, but it is facilitated by harmonised standards and, whoever produces the strictest standards gets the cream. In or out of the EU, we will continue to see the "Brussels effect" dynamic, and it will ensure that our statute book remains more or less intact.
Tuesday 24 March 2015
Britain faces a stark choice after an EU exit of allowing its economy to shrink by £56 billion, by shutting down its borders, or agreeing to the continued free movement of European citizens in a new deal with Brussels, says the Guardian, citing Open Europe as its source.
This is another thoroughly dishonest report from one of the country's least ethical think tanks, which is now devoting its energies to distorting the "EU exit" debate, in an attempt to garner support for its bankrupt "reform" option.
The tactics adopted are as familiar as they are dishonest, the think tank presenting a series of false choices, downplaying preferred options and playing the "scare" card by going for one of the least realistic options and attaching a massive price tag to it – in this case of 2.23 percent of GDP by 2030, or £56 billion a year.
The "straw man" is then presented by Mats Persson, director of Open Europe, as a challenge to Nigel Farage, who says in a message to the Ukip leader: "You have some questions to answer [on] exactly what you want to see outside. What is it?"
Persson, who is maturing as a consummate, unprincipled liar, thus frames the debate in terms of a "free trading Hong Kong-Britain with very liberal policies, including on migration", which he asserts is "what is needed to make us competitive", or "what probably most of what your [Ukip] voters want: to shut the borders and shut the world out which would mean a net loss in terms of the UK's GDP and economic competitiveness".
By presenting this "challenge" to Farage, however, Persson is shooting fish in a barrel. He is addressing the man whose party represents only the minority of anti-EU opinion, and which, in the twenty-plus years of its existence, has yet to come up with a coherent exit strategy. The think-tank director can thus cherry-pick any unrepresentative option he likes, to bolster his fraudulent case for renegotiating the EU treaties – which is the real object of the exercise.
In the OE report, we are told by the Guardian, four exit scenarios are set out, all of them offering the entirely unrealistic "big-bang" options with not the least attempt to consider hybrid solutions, which involve interim solutions and staged withdrawal.
As so often when it sets out to deceive, therefore, Open Europe is characterised by what it doesn't say – what it omits rather than what it tells its readers.
The worse case, which OE wants us to consider is Britain leaving the EU customs union and the single market, and failing to strike a trade deal with the EU. This, predictably, would create havoc with the trading arrangements with the EU, so much so that no one but an idiot (and Mats Persson) would even consider it. Not even Ukip is mad enough to consider this option, yet this is precisely what Persson chooses for his "Armageddon scenario". It is this on which he relies to support his assertion that leaving the EU could cost us £56 billion a year.
Predictably, and with weary constancy, OE skirts round the Norway Option – which is mentioned by name only once in the 104-page report. No analysis of the cost to the GDP of retaining EEA membership is made, by which sleight of hand, open Europe avoids telling us that this option would be cost-neutral.
Such pages as are devoted to EEA membership are dedicated to telling us how bad the option is, so much so that – as with the IEA "Brexit" competition - the option does not make the final list of scenarios. This is "death by omission", the option dismissed with the classic and entire misleading comment that: "Only EEA membership offers full access, but also involves accepting all the EU rules without a vote on their design or implementation".
This is now part of the current OE
armoury, presenting the vote as if it was the be all and end all of the legislative process. Yet, we have been told time and time again that the politics are settled
long before the vote, with EEA countries having greater influence over new legislation than the UK. This, OE
steadfastly chooses to ignore.
One can only conclude from this that the Norway Option really does terrify the Europhiles, so much so that OE
rushes past it, to invite its readers to consider a "mildly improved version of Switzerland's relationship with the EU". In this particular fantasy, Britain negotiates an exit from the EU, involving a free trade deal with the rest of the EU which would give the UK similar market access to the one it currently enjoys. Yet this is still supposed to cost 0.81 percent of GDP.
This then paves the way for fantasy number three, an "even better version of Switzerland's relationship with the EU" – one which, presumably, washes even whiter. In this, Britain would scrap many "EU regulations" and introduce "unilateral free trade" in which the UK would open its borders to foreign competition. Remarkably, this fantasy scenario would lead to a boost to GDP of 0.64 percent.
Now comes the fanfare for the "best case scenario". According to the mendacious Persson, Britain would secure a deal with the EU, implementing a unilateral free trade arrangement, while going for "the maximum deregulation on EU rules such as scrapping all climate change targets". This, supposedly, would increase the UK's GDP by 1.55 percent.
But just to make sure that we understand that Persson does not actually recommend this move, he inserts the sly barb, that: "In political terms this would make Margaret Thatcher look like a socialist". What he doesn't tell us is that the Climate Change Act would keep the climate change targets in place, and therefore, wipe out his GDP boost.
For the first time, however, Open Europe
actually recognises the potential impact of global versus EU influence over regulation, but readers need not expect an honest exploration of the issue. There is no honest intent anywhere in this report.
keeps the focus tightly on financial regulation currently in force, with a view to talking down the global influence. There is nothing of G8, its relationship with the FSB, OECD and the Basel Committee, and things to come, where the trend is towards globalisation of regulation. And those expecting a references to Codex
, UNECE, or the World Forum for the Harmonisation of Vehicle Regulation, will be disappointed.
Such omissions, though, go completely unnoticed by a media which is increasingly proving itself unfit to report on the EU debate. In this instance, the Guardian
buys into the myth-setting, conveying the OE
"belief" that its report "represents a particular challenge to Farage who will have to decide whether Britain should see a dramatic shrinking in its GDP or allow unrestricted EU migration".
The egregious straw-man, of course, is not the challenge it is intended to be. It should be, because Farage has been almost criminally negligent in failing to ensure that Ukip has a credible exit plan. But over-confidence has moved Persson and his minions to go so far over the top that all they are doing is challenging is their own credibility.
Needless to say getting their propaganda into the Guardian
has proved no challenge at all, but they probably found the Telegraph
even easier. This paper is steadily abandoning even a pretence of supporting the anti-EU cause, and always gives OE
a warm welcome. This report proves no exception
Here, though, the Telegraph
goes the extra mile and give Simon Wolfson
free rein to comment – the shopkeeper and advisory board member of Open Europe
who has turned stupidity into an art form
Without so much as a blush, he tells us that, we should brace ourselves "for a barrage of misleading economic propaganda from both sides", of the EU debate, and then goes onto to retail the OE
propaganda as if it was anything other than misleading economic propaganda, bizarrely asserting that it is "a remarkably balanced document".
When it comes to the European Movement, and even the European Commission, there is a certain honesty in their approach. They deliver propaganda, but at least we know it for what it is. The slimy, underhand approach of Open Europe
is all the more detestable for its pretence that it is something it isn't – an impartial commentator.
The techniques used would be entirely familiar to Goebbels, as Wolfson tells us of his "fear is that those who are fighting to leave the EU would do so in the spirit of shutting out the world rather than embracing a global prosperity".
"If these attitudes prevail then Brexit can only damage the UK economy", he says. One could be charitable and assert that only his stupidity prevents him knowing full well that one of the primary purposes of leaving the EU is to escape the grip of the claustrophobic little Europeans in order to rejoin the world trading community as a member in our own right.
But with even its cheerleader unable to argue the case for the EU honestly and directly, this Open Europe's
"landmark report" marks a new low in its level of deceit. It is so bad that, even though the case made by Ukip may be dire, the OE
approach even makes Farage look honest.
Monday 23 March 2015
Yesterday saw the Sunday Telegraph run a front-page story (continued on page 6) featuring Owen Paterson, now "seen as the standard-bearer for the Tory Right-wing".
He is, we are told, to lead a new battle to stop further cuts to the Armed Forces this week, amid warnings that Britain will be unable to defend itself if funding falls again, using a major speech in America to accuse the government of "succumbing to temptation" to outsource national defence to the European Union and Nato.
The speech is to the Heritage Foundation at the Thatcher Center in Washington on Wednesday, when Paterson will be commenting on the revived ambitions for a European Army, articulated by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
If this ambition was ever realised, Paterson will say, it would cut across the close relationship between the UK and the US, and its "special relationship". It would undermine the structure of Nato and weaken the resolve of individual member states to maintain their own militaries, using the European force as an excuse for cutting back their own defence expenditure.
That, in fact, is the most likely outcome of European defence integration – the different member states using the availability of EU-badged forces as an excuse to cut back on their defence spending. This is a temptation to which the UK is not immune.
The fashionable issue currently is the ratio of defence spending to GDP, and while the United States shells out 4.4 percent, the UK is dipping below two percent and, within the decade, could be down to 1.38 percent.
Scores of Tory MPs, and senior military commanders, says the ST, are privately dismayed that the party has failed to rule out further cuts to defence after the election. In particular, they fear the Conservatives will fail to meet Nato's target of spending two percent of GDP.
Already we can see the "dismay" being translated into media scares, with the latest coming from the Mail, which wants us to believe that the 30-year-old Tu-160 "Blackjack" (pictured below) represents a serious threat to the RAF's Eurofighters.
Yet the latest
has even filtered down to Wikipedia
, informing us that there are only eleven flyable models of the latest version. But so far behind is Russian metallurgy that their dodgy engines would actually melt if they were run for too long at full throttle.
To the uninitiated, however, the terrors of a resurgent Russia are all grist to the mill, when it comes to prising open the public coffers. Along with Liam Fox, Admiral Lord West, the Falklands War commander, is right there with the best of them, saying he was "deeply worried about Britain’s future ability to defend itself against aggression from Russia". How useful it is to have those deadly "Blackjacks" on the doorstep.
But, for all the hype, Paterson is not in the "two percent or bust" camp. He believes that we should provide the necessary funds required by an appropriate foreign policy. He is not, he will tell the Americans, fussed about committing to particular projects whether it is aircraft carriers or improved cyber defence, and does not wish to be bound by a particular percentage.
Crucially, according to Peterson, it is the required defence outcome that should be decisive. If foreign and defence requirements change, we should not be afraid to override established percentages.
Before that, though, there are plenty of options, not least improving the performance of defence procurement, and better mission definition, so that we are not wasting billions on fruitless operations such as our intervention in Afghanistan.
In the Times
, the Lord Dannatt, argues that is DfID is struggling to get rid of its money in order to reach its 0.7 percent target, rather than giving it to international agencies, would be better to give the money to defence.
However, the very last thing we need is the likes of Dannatt's successors to be given more money to buy shiny new toys. There are far better ways of squaring the circle. And one of these ways is, as we argued in a series of posts on Defence of the Realm
is to get the Army to deliver aid.
In particular, we saw a role for the Army building roads and infrastructure, and not just doing the work but teaching the locals how to build them. If nothing else, in training the Army excels. And, as we saw with the recent Ebola outbreak, the military are excellent providers of medical aid.
Even, as we saw back in the days of the South-East Asian Tsunami, the US military, with their aircraft carriers and assault ships, were by far the most effective aid providers, while the expenditure on the equivalent of USNS Mercy
(pictured below) would not only bolster the military medical services, but provide a major force for good. If nothing else, this would be a practical application of "soft power".
The direct involvement of the military ensures that money intended for aid actually reaches its destinations – handled by one of the few organisations which is still relatively free from corruption – and it provides a cross-subsidy to the military, helping to maintain the vital but expensive support arms.
In other words, there is far more to the debate than "defence or aid", and there is much to be done in terms of defining foreign policy before we are able intelligently to estimate defence needs.
With that, Owen Paterson will be telling the Americans that continued membership of the EU requires the progressive surrender of much more than national regulatory capacities. With its long-standing political ambitions, Brussels is demanding that we let other national capacities wither.
We are, he will say, learning that a nation cannot give up its national responsibilities in just one area. Nationhood is indivisible – because it is not just material. It is a state of mind and heart. Companies can divide themselves up and spin off divisions. A nation cannot divide its soul without losing its spirit.
America, he will conclude, needs Britain as an ally on many fronts. It needs us to reassert ourselves as a nation … to take our place once again in the counsels of the Earth. And that includes redefining our defence strategies, without getting hung up on percentages.
Sunday 22 March 2015
Booker leads this week with a story on Cyclone Pam. The other stories have been posted separately.
The "three" is the one to savour as, yet again, we see CAP reform descend into chaos when it is handed to British civil servants to execute it. We saw this in 1993 with the introduction of the IACS system, under the chaotic custodianship of then Agriculture minister John Gummer.
This time, though, we have Angela Eagle, Labour's front bench rural affairs spokeswoman, ranting away at the Government over the £154 million IT fiasco that has yet again made an utter shambles of how EU subsidies are paid to our farmers.
Designed by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) to enable these transactions to be conducted only online, the scheme collapsed in such chaos that the RPA has returned to the paper-based system it was intended to replace.
Farmers are now having to download forms, fill them in by hand and send them by post to the RPA office, complete with supporting documents, including scale maps of the areas farmed. These data will then be entered manually onto the completer database, with the process taking so long that the deadline has had to be extended a month to 15 June.
Ms Eagle may well castigate the RPA for its failures, but she has a short memory, clearly choosing to forget the chaos that in 2007 engulfed the previous £350 million payments scheme, personally chosen by Labour’s Margaret Beckett, which led to Britain having to hand over £590 million in fines to Brussels.
In 2011, the man who had presided over this fiasco as head of the RPA, Tony Cooper, was paid £311,000 to take early retirement (plus a pension pot of £1.3 million). Another £47 million was given to other RPA officials to retire likewise.
Altogether this was a perfect vignette of how we are now governed. And all our politicians can do is scream abuse at the other side until it is time for them to take the reins – and preside over the next shambles.