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Tuesday 3 March 2015

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Proclaimed yesterday by Business for Britain with all the arrogance of the breed is a bizarrely incompetent piece of work that purports to settle the question of how much UK law is "made in Brussels" – and which gets it spectacularly wrong.

In the first of its many errors, Matthew Elliott's toy think-tank selects the arbitrary period of 1993 to 2014, a total of 22 years, as the basis for its comparison. But, of course, the UK has been making laws for centuries, and the EU (in all its previous forms, including the Coal and Steel Community) has been making laws for over 60 years. This means that BfB is providing only a limited and partial snapshot, not a complete picture.

Secondly, it makes the incredibly stupid mistake of taking the number of EU regulations and directives promulgated, year-by-year, and adding them together to furnish a total of 49,699 for the 22-year period. What evidently is not realised is that much EU regulation is short-lived. A huge amount – for instance relating to the CAP – applies only for the year to which it relates. These regulations then lapse and are replaced by the next tranche.

The measure, therefore, cannot use the total number of regulations promulgated. It has to use the number in force at any one time. The basis of BfB's estimation is fundamentally and irrevocably flawed.

Next, the Elliotties make another basic mistake. They assume that, because EU regulations have direct effect, and therefore do not have to be incorporated into the UK statute book in order to apply, that necessarily they are not incorporated into the statute book.

In fact, many of the regulations are transposed into UK law. They have to be in order to build them into an enforcement and penalty framework, and sometimes in order to link provisions to other instruments, some UK generated. Some even implement non-EU treaty or technical packages.

A good example of this process is the Food Hygiene Regulations 2006 which provide for the execution and enforcement of Regulation (EC) No. 852/2004 on the hygiene of foodstuffs; Regulation (EC) No. 853/2004 laying down specific hygiene rules for food of animal origin; Regulation (EC) No. 854/2004 laying down specific rules for the organisation of official controls on products of animal origin intended for human consumption; Commission Regulation (EC) No. 2073/2005 on microbiological criteria for foodstuffs; and Commission Regulation (EC) No. 2075/2005 laying down specific rules on official controls for Trichinella in meat.  Five separate EU regulations are packed into one set of UK regulations. 

Thus, at two levels the Elliott figure is wrong. It vastly over-estimates the amount of regulation and then it double counts some (an unknown) number of regulations. These errors further invalidate any calculations.

Fourthly, for some unknown reason, the think tank under-records the amount of UK legislation passed. In 2013, for instance, Business for Britain records 1,234 Acts and Statutory Instrument, yet the government website gives us 3,004. For 2012, BfE has 1,146. The official figure is 3,025.

Thus, given the massive errors, the headline figure of 64.7 percent (including directives) offered by Business for Britain as the proportion of UK law "made or influenced" by the EU is worthless. It has no merit whatsoever. 

Furthermore, even attempting to assess the degree of penetration of EU law is futile. Making numerical assessments is comparing chalk and cheese. For instance, of the UK Statutory Instruments produced in a typical year, a huge majority are road traffic orders or administrative instruments of a purely technical nature, with no equivalents in EU law. By way of illustration, the UK legislative database reveals the: 
  • Financial Services (Banking Reform) Act 2013 (Commencement No. 4) Order 2014; 
  • Non-Domestic Rating (Levy and Safety Net) (Amendment) Regulations 2014; 
  • Marriage of Same Sex Couples (Use of Armed Forces' Chapels) Regulations 2014; 
  • Air Navigation (Restriction of Flying) (Jet Formation Display Teams) (No. 3) Regulations 2014.
Illustrative of the type of traffic orders issued, there are the: 
  • A46 Trunk Road (Stoneleigh, Warwickshire) (Temporary Prohibition of Traffic) Order 2014;
  • A5 Trunk Road (Upton Magna, Shropshire) (Temporary Prohibition of Traffic) Order 2014;
  • A5 Motorway and A46 Trunk Road (Ashchurch, Gloucestershire) (Temporary Prohibition of Traffic) Order 2014; 
  • M32 Motorway (Junctions 1-3) (Temporary Prohibition of Traffic) Order 2014; 
  • A46 Trunk Road (M4 Junction 18 to Cold Ashton Roundabout) (Temporary Prohibition of Traffic) Order 2014; 
  • M4 Motorway (Junctions 17-18) (Temporary Restriction and Prohibition of Traffic) Order 2014. 
On the EU front, there can hardly be any equivalence with, for instance: 
  • Commission Implementing Directive 2014/21/EU of 6 February 2014 determining minimum conditions and Union grades for pre-basic seed potatoes; 
  • Directive 2014/27/EU of 26 February 2014 amending Council Directives 92/58/EEC, 92/85/EEC, 94/33/EC, 98/24/EC and Directive 2004/37/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, in order to align them to Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008 on classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures; 
  • Commission Implementing Directive 2014/37/EU of 27 February 2014 amending Council Directive 91/671/EEC relating to the compulsory use of safety belts and child restraint systems in vehicles.
All that can basically stand are the raw figures. Roughly, there are 3,969 General Acts and 71,851 Statutory Instruments on the UK legal database, making 75,820 legislative instruments in all (2013 figures). This compares with 22,390 EU acts (directives, regulations and decisions) currently in force as of February 2015. 

It is not possible to come up with an accurate percentage, one with another. For the reasons discussed, it cannot be said that EU acts represent "x percent" of the 75,820 UK laws and, even if it could, the point is meaningless. All we can say, with any validity, is that a great deal of law comes to us via the EU.

Yet even that careful phrasing tells a story. A very substantial amount of that law originates with higher bodies, from UNECE to Codex and points south. Of the 6,000 or so laws in the Single Market acquis, potentially 80 percent are of international origin. The rest of the acquis also has international input, which means that a substantial proportion of the so-called "EU laws" would remain in force even if we left the EU.

All of this, as you would imagine, is in Flexcit, the document self-serving amateurs such as Elliott are far too grand to read. If they did, they might learn something, which means they could no longer exploit their ignorance in support of an equally ignorant media. But it might also mean that they would stop issuing distorting propaganda and get down to exploring more relevant issues.

Richard North 03/03/2015 link

Monday 2 March 2015

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If green cheese was worth £25 billion a ton, there was an active, multi-billion demand against a global shortage, and the moon was made of green cheese, there would some sense in exploring the idea of developing a lunar green cheese mining industry.

But to argue for such an industry, ignoring the salient facts – not least of which the moon is made of something altogether more pedestrian – is not so much to ignore reality as to defy the notion that it even exists. Any writing in such terms would rightly be considered absurd.

Likewise, although not quite in the same league of impossibility, writing about the supposition that the UK can go to Brussels and negotiate fundamental changes in our relations with the EU is similarly absurd. Anyone with the slightest understanding of EU politics and treaty law knows that this is impossible. It cannot and will not happen.

One can, of course, argue those points. But to do so would be a waste of time and resource. The anti-EU movement has little enough of both and it really is necessary for us to move on and address the realms of the probable and possible, in order then to devise a credible plan for fighting a referendum campaign.

Sadly though, in a jointly produced pamphlet for the Civitas think tank entitled "Hard Bargains", soon-to-become ex-MP Brian Binley and "research consultant" Dr Lee Rotherham are not yet ready to move on. In the foreword by John Redwood, we are told that the pamphlet, "sets out some of the matters that the authors wish to see renegotiated". The authors are not even prepared to entertain proximity talks with reality. They have expended their skills and undoubted intellects on an utterly futile cause.

The point is made adequately in the LSE blog:
Renegotiating the UK's terms and conditions of EU membership is unworkable, unpersuasive, and unnecessary. Practically speaking there are two options. Either the UK tries to renegotiate from above by reducing the law-making powers of the EU institutions. That option would require a treaty change and the unanimous agreement of the other member states which is, currently, unrealistic. Or the UK tries to negotiate a better "deal" for itself, e.g. through opt outs and protocols that are attached to the Treaty. But is it credible that the other member states would grant the UK special treatment when every member state is subject to aspects of EU law of which it disapproves and would dearly like to roll back the frontiers of European law and policy?
Yet, neither Binley nor Rotherham is stupid. In an otherwise interesting pamphlet, therefore, one wonders why they should devote their energies to such an exercise. But there again, while they may disagree, I suspect I know what they are trying to do.

Essentially, so embedded is "renegotiation" in the psyche of Tory "eurosceptics" that our two stalwarts are not confident that they can carry the day by arguing for an exit. They thus feel the need to dress reality in a taffeta frock of "renegotiation" to make it presentable. This is seen as a way of sanitising euroscepticism.

The overall idea, most probably, is an attempt to keep as many of the disparate "anti-EU" groups together, with a "big tent" agenda which will pull in as many players as possible to create a united front.

Nevertheless, in arguing that "fundamental treaty change is needed from any renegotiation", the objective being to "remove entire articles and titles as applied to the UK", the authors have evidently decided that reality is not to be allowed in the same building.

Worse still we find that Binley and Rotherham don't even want it above the horizon. Although they assert that "achieving wide-ranging reform of the Lisbon Treaty" is not realistic, in its place they propose something equally unrealistic: a "bilateral deal between the UK as one party and the rest of the EU as the corporate other".

This, amazingly, they would have us believe, "could address the UK's issues by removing the controversies from EU control", notwithstanding that a party to one treaty cannot negotiate bilateral changes to that treaty and remain a party to it.

Strangely though, reality is then offered a cameo walk-on part, when we are informed that, "by definition, this will change our individual treaty terms and we will no longer be 'EU members' in the current sense". But, that is as close as it gets. In an attempt to square the unyielding circle, we are informed that, "vocabulary doesn't matter – the terms do".

The problem is that, whether or not "vocabulary" matters, in a rules-based treaty organisation such as the European Union, procedures do matter. And there is simply no procedure written into the treaties which would permit any single Member State to redefine the treaty provisions to its own advantage. And, without such a procedure, the UK cannot insist on negotiations. Nor could Member States consider them - to do so would risk the break-up of the Union.

As we have so often pointed out, the only way that the UK can insist on negotiations to redefine its relationship with the EU is by invoking Article 50 – which requires us to leave the EU.

To point this out is not being difficult, or even "arrogant" – as some have averred to my face. It is simply a matter of fact. There are no options, there is no flexibility. There are no choices. If the EU wants to force the pace with negotiations, then it is Article 50 or nothing.

However, from the "vantage point" of Binley-Rotherham, things appear different. Article 50, they suggest, is "rather ahead of the game" since they are looking at the terms of a treaty to be reached before Mr Cameron holds his [2017] referendum.

Only when one digs deeply into the pamphlet, do we find by way of an endnote to a reference to Article 50 (on page 88),  that the authors believe that the Article might need to be triggered "only if the talks on a new relationship have stalled". Against the threat that the UK might decide to leave the EU, we are expected to accept that the "colleagues" will allow us special and exceptional privileges, that fly in the face of the very concept of the European Union.   

But then, this is not a eurosceptic tract. At the very end of the paper, we find that the ambition of the authors is actually to "make our membership of the EU work". All we have, therefore, is the sheep wearing a taffeta frock. This is simply a variation on the Cameron/Open Europe/Business for Elliott theme. We really do not have time for these games - we really do have to move on.

Richard North 02/03/2015 link

Sunday 1 March 2015

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It was scarcely believable, writes Booker, that Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw should have been so shameless and so naive. Both were caught out by exactly the same trick that, five years ago, led to Stephen Byers happily admitting to a carefully placed Dispatches briefcase that, when it came to "cash for access", he was "like a cab for hire".

But at least those former ministers were only touting for thousands of pounds a day after they had left their positions of direct power and influence over government policy. What, then, are we to make of those politicians who receive astonishingly lavish rewards from firms engaged in "renewable energy" when they are still in a position to influence government policy, or have only just stepped down from having responsibility for it?

Last week Booker referred to the speed with which Charles Hendry MP switched from being minister of state for energy and climate change to the chairmanship of Forewind Ltd. That is the consortium to which his old ministry has just given the go-ahead to build the world's largest offshore wind farm, which in its first ten years of operation is likely to receive some £9 billion in public subsidies.

Mr Hendry, we see from his declarations of interest, last year earned £48,000 from Forewind, at up to £1,000 an hour; and also earns £60,000 a year from a company called Bombo, which hopes to build an "interconnector" to bring renewable energy to Britain from Iceland.

He, of course, replaced Lord Deben (aka John Gummer), who was persuaded to resign from Forewind when he was appointed chairman of the "independent" Climate Change Committee, on which the Government relies for advice on its energy policy. But he still, for a while, managed to retain his directorship of Veolia, a company which hopes to make a fortune from connecting wind farms to the grid.

Then, of course, there was the controversial case of Tim Yeo MP, who long served as chairman of the also supposedly "independent" select committee on energy and climate change, despite earning £200,000 a year from various renewable and "low carbon" energy firms. These included his directorship of Eurotunnel, which plans a new interconnector to bring French electricity to Britain, specifically to provide back-up for our unreliable wind farms.

Mr Yeo eventually had to step aside as chairman after being allegedly caught on video admitting to having "coached" an employee of a solar energy firm in which he had an interest on how to handle questions from his own committee. But he was cleared by the Commons standards watchdog, and still remains on this hugely influential committee.

These men had no need to become "cabs for hire". They have been able to cruise, all above board, in that strange twilight zone between positions of influence and the greatest public subsidy bonanza Britain has ever seen.

Richard North 01/03/2015 link

Saturday 28 February 2015

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It was actually in 2006 that we were pointing out that Open Europe wasn't a eurosceptic organisation. How could it be with a "mission statement" almost identical in tone to the robustly Europhile organisation Business for New Europe. And by 2012, we were openly calling it the "enemy within", so obvious were its pro-EU sympathies.

That, however, did not stop the media routinely labelling it a "eurosceptic think-tank", and continuing to do so almost to this day. Amongst their number, as you would expect, was Conservative Home, helpfully reinforced by the European Commission which in 2009, according to Mary Ellen Synon, declared Open Europe "a eurosceptic think-tank to the right of the conservatives in the UK".

Reuters routinely called it "a eurosceptic think-tank", the Economist in 2010 backed up the Commission, calling it "a small but assiduous Eurosceptic campaign group", and the Guardian in June 2012 also helped the lie on its way. It told us that: "Britain should stay in EU, says report by Eurosceptic think tank".

A month later, the Financial Times chose a variation on the theme, referring to OE as a "broadly eurosceptic think tank", even though the think tank had "acknowledged recently that EU membership remained the most beneficial arrangement". And, of course, the BBC was to the fore, observed as late as June 2014, referring to the "influential Eurosceptic think tank Open Europe".

Even the supposedly eurosceptic Spectator went along with the myth in November 2012. And predictably, The Times fell into the trap, calling Open Europe a "Eurosceptic think-tank” in October 2013. Sadly, the Telegraph was no better. It used the term "Open Europe, a Eurosceptic think tank" in November last year, as indeed did the Express and the Daily Mail.

But one other media outlet that was giving Open Europe the "eurosceptic" accolade was EurActive. It was keeping up the charade into 2013 but, by December of that year, OE had become "the Euro-critical think tank Open Europe". Then, as of yesterday, it has been fully outed to become "a critical but pro-EU think tank" (see illustration).

This is a major step. After all these years, the truth it out and, as a false flag operation, Open Europe is no more. However, a replacement is already in place, in the form of Business for Britain - or Business for Elliott as one critic calls it, after its founder and major beneficiary, Matthew Elliott. He is the man who started Taxpayers Alliance - ostensibly an independent organisation but in fact a Tory front to broaden the attack on Labour's public expenditure agenda.

Elliott's latest cash cow has stepped into the breach with a "renegotiation" agenda identical in principle to that of OE. And it has already spawned the first of a number of Münzenberg-esq "front organisations", the equivalent of the "Innocents' Clubs", stacked with "useful idiots", used to bolster Soviet Russia.

This "clone" of BfE, Historians for Britain, is to be followed by others, all adopting the same basic pattern, launched on the back of a list of prominent signatories willing to perform the "useful idiot" function to a gullible media. In due course, we can expect the likes of "Nurses for Britain" and even "Roadsweepers for Britain", the aim being to swamp the anti-EU movement with "false flag" operations and to suppress the established "outers".

With the media corporations inherently sympathetic to "renegotiation", and the average journalist apparently unable to tell the difference between a WWII tank and a mid-sixties self-propelled gun, they are hardly going to bother outing these sham anti-EU organisations, any more than they did Open Europe. More likely, they will suck up the highly polished propaganda that Elliott can provide them, as a cheap substitute for real journalism. 

Willi Münzenberg would have been so proud to see his work so deftly exploited. Maintaining plausible "front organisations" is a demanding process and the pro-EU faction has made the most of his pioneering work.  

Richard North 28/02/2015 link

Saturday 28 February 2015

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It is hard to add to this. There can be little dispute that a credible (or any) manifesto is vital to Ukip's electoral prospects. Thus, by now, even their most ardent supporters must be getting nervous. The party is beyond parody

Richard North 28/02/2015 link

Friday 27 February 2015

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If one wonders just how naff the Daily Mail can become, one just needs to visit the headline of their piece on the Ukip spring conference in Margate. There, we are told, the Ukipites were "gatecrashed" by "NAZI dancing troupe goose-stepping through Margate in front of a Second World War tank".

Notwithstanding any other errors, the vehicle in question is not a tank – it is an Abbot FV433 self-propelled gun. And it is not of World War II vintage. It was actually introduced into British Army service in 1965. I remember it well as, about that time, I was nearly flattened by one when it came hurtling down a track on which we had pitched our tent (don't ask).

The identity of the vehicle may be a nerdy point, but details matter - not that Ukip would know the difference. But if you are to have any credibility at all, you get them right.

Richard North 27/02/2015 link

Friday 27 February 2015

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Although it struggled for a place in the television bulletins yesterday after the release of reports into abuse carried out by ex-DJ Jimmy Savile in NHS hospitals, the press nevertheless obliged with details of what the Mail called "humiliating figures" which showed David Cameron's promise to cut net migration to the "tens of thousands" is in tatters.

Supplied by ONS (see below), the figures show net migration for the year to September standing at 298,000, representing the balance remaining after a record 624,000 arrived in Britain, up from 530,000 in the previous 12 months. At the same time, 327,000 left, a figure which has barely changed since 2010.

There were, says ONS, statistically significant increases for immigration of non-EU citizens, which are up 49,000 to 292,000, and of EU (non-British) citizens, up 43,000 to 251,000. It is still the case, therefore, that there are more migrants from outside the EU.

The non-EU figure includes 24,914 asylum applications (main applicants), an increase of six percent compared with 23,584 in 2013, but low relative to the peak of 84,132 in 2002. The largest number of applications came from Eritrea (3,239), Pakistan (2,711), Syria (2,081) and Iran (2,011).

Trying to put a brave face on the overall, Downing Street claimed that the soaring figures were "a problem of success", as people from across the globe flocked to Britain in search of work. Nevertheless, Mr Cameron was said to be "disappointed" after promising voters he would tackle immigration: "No ifs. No buts". The level now is actually higher than when he took power.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman claimed the sharp rise in EU migration demonstrated "the challenge of the UK having a successful and growing economy at a time when many of the eurozone economies are stagnating". He added: "I don't think that was a factor anyone was predicting in 2010".

Given her boss's enthusiasm for remaining in the EU, though, it hardly behoves shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper to claim that Mr Cameron's immigration target is "now in tatters".

She told BBC Radio 4's The World At One: "Of course immigration is important and we need top talent, but it has got to be controlled and managed so that the system is fair" – not withstanding that there is no ability to "manage" inflow from the EU. Under a Labour administration, therefore, it is unlikely that the figures would be any different.

The problem is, of course, that Mr Cameron and his Conservative colleagues are mainly right when they attribute the increase in migration to the economy. Despite assertions about welfare payments, the overwhelming draw for many migrants is jobs, and with the rest of Europe struggling for growth, it is inevitable that they will gravitate to the UK.

And, although Ukip are likely to enjoy a boost in the polls from these figures, neither do they have a credible policy. Any attempt to clamp down on immigration flows from Europe would see a massive rise in illegal immigration – in the unlikely event that we could negotiate an exit deal without agreeing a free movement provision.

That apart, 292,000 migrants (gross figure) are from non-EU countries, and there is nothing directly in EU law that would prevent us excluding these people. With net total migration of 298,000, that would have brought the figure down to 6,000 – which no doubt would be tolerable (to some).

Where that might create problems is that 31 percent of migrants have come here to study (192,000), which is a major revenue earner for the UK. Then 14 percent have come in to join their families (90,000). That puts us almost back where we started. 

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Addressing the "pull factors", therefore, remains the best bet for bringing numbers down overall. The main issues here must be the enforcement of the minimum wage, the policing of housing standards and the removal of child benefit paid to children resident overseas.

Ensuring that all employers paid the minimum wage would make immigrant labour less attractive, while taking substandard lettings off the market would remove cheap accommodation and make low-paid jobs less attractive to migrants – as indeed would ending overseas child benefit payments.

Given the lack of progress in any of these three categories, one suspects that the current government remains of the view that immigration is beneficial, and is not really trying to cut back the flow. They may also have been reading the runes, in the form of a YouGov poll. This suggests that, while there is public concern about immigration, the majority of people do not favour the Ukip stance on the issue.

Nevertheless, the Economist suggests that the current round of immigration is perhaps not as beneficial as even this government thinks, which means that it may eventually be motivated to implement some curbs.

Yet, despite the failure, Dan Hodges reckons the figures have arrived too late to arrest Ukip's decline, which he reckons will accelerate as we approach the reckoning of 8 May.

But a failed policy is still a failed policy and whichever party does win the election (if any) has a timebomb on its hands. By any measure, a net inflow of nearly 300,000 immigrants a year is unacceptable.

Richard North 27/02/2015 link

Thursday 26 February 2015

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I am not sure what to make of the apparent bravado of Nato forces, including a small detachment of US Second Cavalry Strykers (pictured), joining an Independence Day parade in the Estonian city of Narva, a mere 300 yards from the Russian frontier.

The city juts into Russia, separated only by a river, and has a large Russian-speaking population. It has often been cited as a potential target for the Kremlin if it wanted to escalate its conflict with the West onto Nato territory. Thus, the Washington Post calls the parade a symbolic act that highlighted the stakes for both sides amid the worst tensions between the West and Russia since the Cold War.

Symbolic it may be, but it is also provocation - not least to the Russian-speaking population of Estonia. Despite that, though, it hardly seems that Russia can complain. It has upped the frequency of probing flights by Bear maritime patrol aircraft, close to UK airspace, and is worrying the Norwegians in the high Arctic with extensive air movements.

On the other hand, in a bid to calm things down, Merkel has rejected calls to arm Ukraine, and is even refusing weapons to the Baltic states. It seems particularly inappropriate, therefore, that the UK should be sending troops on a training mission to Ukraine. This is hardly calculated to calm Russian suspicions and lends strength to the Norwegians who are asserting that "relations with Russia will never again be the same". They are talking about restructuring their military.

The UK military lobby is doubtless delighted, as this new threat – real or apparent – justifies greater defence spending. Rory Stewart, current Defence Committee chairman, is already putting in a bid for more money. In fact, such is the enthusiasm for upping the ante that a cynic might even suggest that the UK defence industry had done a deal with Russians, their respective establishments looking forward to a boost in conventional arms spending, the like of which neither have seen since the end of the Cold War.

Nevertheless, the Nato establishment may be taking on more than it bargained for. Last week saw the release by the Russians of details of a new armoured vehicle, the first completely new platform for over 40 years, carrying the name Armata.

Developed by the Uralvagonzavod Research and Production Corporation, the tank version (T-14) sports an unmanned remotely controlled turret, armed with a brand new 125 mm 2A82-1M smoothbore gun. Its muzzle energy is greater than one of the world's previously considered best tank guns: the German Leopard-2 Rheinmetall 120mm. 

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Significantly, it is also equipped with a 30mm cannon capable of dealing with various targets, including low-flying helicopters, together with a 12.5 mm rotary machine gun, reportedly capable of taking out incoming projectiles, such as anti-tank missiles and even anti-tank shells at speeds approaching 3,000 meters per second. Presumably, it is equipped with sensors similar to those used in the Israeli Trophy system.

The Russians have already delivered 20 units for training purposes, but this is territory into which we do not want to venture. The UK is reliant on 20-year-old Challenger 2 tanks and the very last thing we need is an expensive re-equipment programme. Matching Russian capabilities could cost us billions.

With the UK standing accused of "sleep-walking" into the current crisis, and having been "taken by surprise by events in Ukraine", one wonders if Mr Cameron has really thought through his current "provocation". We really cannot afford another arms race, and decades of Cold War with Russia, yet our prime minister seems determined to lead us down that path, without the first idea of the consequences.

Richard North 26/02/2015 link

Wednesday 25 February 2015

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Picking up on my piece from last night, we find Steven Tindale, an Associate Fellow at the Centre for European Reform, exulting in the fact that the "anti-EU side" does not have an agreed alternative plan to the EU, which he finds "encouraging".

That the opposition can so easily make this comment says a great deal about our so-called movement. After all these years, it is not only the leading eurosceptic party that has failed to come up with a coherent "plan". It is the movement as a whole – discordant, disjointed, fractious and antagonistic.

It can be no coincidence, therefore, that YouGov is now reporting that, from its routine EU referendum poll, 45 percent would vote to remain in the EU and only 35 percent would vote to leave. This is YouGov's largest "in" lead since its records began in September 2010 (see graphic below).

There is, by contrast, the recent Opinium Poll which gave us 44 percent ion favour of leaving and 41 percent who want to stay in – a slender margin at best, but one which uses different methodology and cannot give comparable results.

YouGov's data are comparable over time, and find support for EU membership at an all-time high of 45 percent, up from 42 percent last month, presenting a sombre picture for those amongst us who have ambitions of fighting and winning a referendum. 

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For Ukip, the polls present a similarly gloomy picture (for party supporters), at 13 percent on a downwards trend that has yet to reach bottom. And perhaps even more telling is the poll on the future of Ukip. In October last year, fresh after Douglas Carswell's victory in Clacton, the polling company measured the public mood about Ukip’s future as a force in British politics – if it would fade away, or remain an important feature for at least the next ten years.

At that time, the public fell on the side of longevity, by 49-35 percent but, in the months since, that position has reversed, and by a wider margin. Currently, the majority (53 percent) think the party will fade. Only 30 percent think it will endure. And more than twice as many Ukip voters (12 percent) express doubts about their party's future than in October (5 percent).

This is hardly surprising. As Autonomous Mind points out - and despite the denials – the "big fish" in the stagnant Ukip pond are shaping up for a battle for the heart and soul of what remains of the party after it's electoral defeat.

Given that the Conservative Party then manages to form a government, our ragged, uncoordinated, leaderless troops will then be facing a battle for the a greater prize, the end of our membership of the European Union.

Here, YouGov illustrates the odds against us. Imagine the British government under David Cameron has renegotiated our relationship with Europe, it says, and says that Britain's interests were now protected. Against his recommendation that Britain remain a member of the European Union on the new terms, respondents are asked how they would vote.

In this instance, the 45 percent who would vote to stay in the Union climbs to 57 percent and those who want to leave drop to a mere 21 percent.

Given that Mr Cameron – the man who "vetoed" an EU treaty – is quite capable of bringing back a real treaty from Brussels, with a renegotiation "package" sufficient to garner support from a gullible media, we will have been comprehensively outflanked and risk almost certain defeat.

Collectively, we have the better case, and the means to win the fight, but as time passes that looks less and less likely. Within the eurosceptic "movement" there is no will to win – that burning commitment to victory that is required for us to prevail.

The trouble is that, in order to reach rock bottom, and thence to develop that "killer" instinct that will eventually see us prevail, I think we must fight the battle – even if it means losing. But it must be a heroic failure, the lessons from which will lead us to understand what it takes to be successful.

The tragedy is, though, we do not have to lose – and even now our defeat is not certain until the final results have been declared. But for those who have led us to this pass, those who have put personal ambitions before the needs of the campaign, there will have to be a reckoning. They will have cost us dear.

Richard North 25/02/2015 link

Tuesday 24 February 2015

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Rajendra Pachauri, IPPC chairman, pathological liar and altogether bad egg, has finally resigned – not for any of his professional foul-ups but over allegations of sexual harassment.

Interestingly, the Straits Times notes that he was mired in controversy when errors were found in the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report: "An erroneous claim that Himalayan glaciers could be lost by 2035 was allegedly taken from a press article instead of a scientific study".

Pachauri refused to accept personal responsibility for these errors and rejected pressure to step down, claiming "ideologically-driven posturing" was behind attacks on the IPCC. He should, of course, have gone then, but led a charmed life.

Now he has been outed for sexual harassment, though, others are coming forward with allegations that go back ten years. Sexual harassment, it seems, has been a common occurrence in the workplace when Pachauri has been around. Now, in typical IPCC fashion, Pachauri seems intent on doctoring the evidence.

It is better late than never that he has gone, I suppose. But it should have been sooner.

Richard North 24/02/2015 link