Euro elections: Wilders bombs - again


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In September 2012, Gert Wilders was being much-hyped, expected to take the Dutch general election by storm. In the event, though, he seriously underperformed, despite (or possibly because of) having pushed the boat out on the back of his eurosceptic credentials.

Yet, confident predictions that Wilders was again on the march, as part of a Europe-wide upsurge in right-wing parties, have proved misplaced.

According to Dutch exit polls, his Freedom (PVV) Party has slumped into a "surprise" fourth place in euro-elections. This is despite opinion polls indicating that he would take the most number of seats in the contest, and his earlier commissioning of a Nexit report. The final exit poll is showing only 12.2 percent of the vote.

On the basis of that poll, the Freedom Party will take a mere three out of the 26 Dutch seats in the parliament, down from four in the 2009 elections, when it took second place.

That the European situation was being over-hyped was rather what we suspected, with later indications that Dutch support for the EU was rock solid.

It remains to be see whether the results for the rest of Europe – or even the UK - are likely to be any more accurate. So far, we've only seen one turnout figure for the euros - Wigan delivered 28.6 percent.


Richard North 23/05/2014 link

Brexit: questions to answer


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In good time this morning, the two reports from The City UK are available for study. They can be downloaded from here and here.

For all their length, coming to 164 pages between them, the first skim suggests that this is more of the same. Of the first volume, written by economist Dr Rebecca Driver, we are told that the study is based on "literature review", rather than "primary research".

What is startling is that Chairman of The City UK, Gerry Grimstone, is thus able to tell us that this enables the report "to cover a much broader range of issues than it would be possible to capture within a model based approach". So, it seems, the alternative to derivative recycling of other people's work is the "model based approach".

Here, one has to ask: whatever happened to original thinking, based on conventional analyses of a mix of existing and new data? Why is it that the "original research" has to be "model based"? In the minds of these people, is there no other way of doing original research?

That said, the "literature review" is highly selective. Clearly, Dr Driver has not read Flexcit, where she would have found some original research. She could have found it very easily had she wanted to, but she really does not want us in her private debate.

These people (from both sides of the divide) do so much want to keep the debate tightly contained within the parameters they set. The one thing they cannot allow is the debate to be widened out, lest it becomes apparent that there are other alternatives, better than anything they have thought of, which might actually have a chance of working.

As we see so often, therefore, this current initiative is an attempt to control the debate, rather than expand it. Fortunately, as long as this blog exists, there will always be a channel for original thinking.

Original thinking you will certainly not see in the second City UK document either. By corporate lawyer Clifford Chance LLP, it offers the same low-grade derivative repetition, not very much more than Open Europe had to offer, nearly two years ago. But the options offered for leaving the EU are the ones they wants us to consider. And as long as we obediently trot down the pre-ordained path, there will never emerge a workable exit plan.

That said, one of the least favourable exit options identified in this volume, is the idea of "bilaterals + EFTA" (illustrated top), an option I have only seen stated with any clarity in two reports, once in 2011 when EFTA enthusiast Hugo van Randwyck, wrote a Bruges Group pamphlet entitled, "EFTA or the EU?".

The next came last February, advocated by Bootle's Capital Economics in their Nexit plan, only to have the same, very specific combination emerge in all six finalists in the IEA Brexit prize.

As it happens, the case against this combination is unarguable - a variation of the "Swiss option", it doesn't even work for the Swiss. The IEA must ask itself, therefore (but won't), why it picked six finalists all offering this option, one of the least attractive and one which is almost (actually, delete "almost") guaranteed to fail.

If these two reports do nothing else, therefore, they consign the much unlamented IEA Brexit prize to the dustbin, brushed aside with contemptuous ease, over £100,000 of sponsors' money completely wasted.

Still, that rather conveniently clears the way for Roger Bootle – former IEA judge and then advisor (after complaints about his lack of impartiality) on the Brexit panel. He can now tell is in today's Telegraph that we should "renegotiate the EU treaty and be prepared to leave", preparatory to telling us tomorrow how should we leave.


Richard North 28/04/2014 link

Brexit: an application of Bootleomics


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It is nearly two weeks since the IEA "Brexit" prizes were announced, and far from starting a debate, as the Lord Lawson hoped it might, the IEA intervention has killed it dead. Within a few days of the prizes, publicity had sagged and it has now been four days since there has been any media at all.

Nevertheless, I am continuing to work offline on upgrading our own version of the "Brexit" plan, I've been hard at it all weekend and have now been able to upload the latest version of "Flexcit" (v.04), accessible here or from the button on the menu above.

Added to the original are more than 6,000 words in over 20 pages, the additions alone longer than one of the entire submissions selected as a finalist for the IEA prize. Oddly enough, I am inspired by a quote I extracted from a paper written almost exactly a year ago by Ben Harris-Quinney of the Bow Group.

"It is now not enough to simply bemoan the failings of the EU", he wrote. "The first priority for all eurosceptics should be to find a superior and realistic alternative, and to actively and constructively work towards it".

What I'm currently working on is an evaluation of why some pundits favour the "Swiss option" for leaving the EU, over the "Norway option", the essence being, in part, that the former supposedly offers a greater chance of securing cost-savings.

From the work I have done so far, it seems that the justification for this is, to say the very least, rather ingenious, coming from Open Europe. I thought it worth running it on the blog to see what my regular ex-readers thought of it.

To save their money, Open Europe, it seems, have a theory is based on a comparative analysis of cost/benefit ratios, as between EU and UK law. According to Open Europe, EU law comes out at 1.02, which means that every pound spent delivers a mere £1.02 of benefits. On the other hand, UK law comes out at 2.35 which means that every £1 spent delivers £2.35.

When the two ratios are compared, they tells us, this gives a 2.5 times advantage to UK law, which has Open Europe arguing that it is more cost effective to regulate nationally than it is to regulate via the EU.

This is a delicious theory, and one that would be very attractive – if it was valid. But the big problem for me is that chalk seems to be being compared with a very ripe cheese. Let's look at a few bits of legislation from the two different systems, in a target year of 2008/9.

On the UK side, we have the Estate agents (Redress scheme) Order 2008 and Estate Agents (Redress Scheme) (Penalty Charge) Regulations 2008. These ensure that consumers have access to independent redress from estate agents and estate agents are fined for non-membership of redress schemes.

Picking more or less at random from the EU side, we have Directive 2008/105/EC of 16 December 2008 on environmental quality standards in the field of water policy (amending and subsequently repealing several other directives).

On the UK side, we have the Local Transport Act, an Act which seeks to empower local authorities by giving them strengthened powers to deliver a local transport system that is best suited to local needs. Back to the EU, we have Council Directive 2008/72/EC of 15 July 2008 on the marketing of vegetable propagating and planting material, other than seed.

The UK then can have Street Works (Charges for Unreasonably Prolonged Occupation of the Highway) (England) Regulations 2009. This is designed to reduce the number of occasions when works in the highway by undertakers take longer than the agreed duration and so help to reduce the inconvenience and disruption caused.

From the EU we then have Directive 2008/28/EC of 11 March 2008 amending Directive 2005/32/EC establishing a framework for the setting of ecodesign requirements for energy-using products.

Back on the UK side, we have Pensions Act 2008 which introduces measures aimed at encouraging greater private pension saving. And from the EU we have Directive 2008/68/EC of 24 September 2008 on the inland transport of dangerous goods.

Clearly evident from this small sample is that very obvious fact that the two legislatures are operating in completely different areas. But even if we expand the sample, it is still evident that we are dealing with very different legislation sets, covering completely different territories.

Taken as a whole, we can accept that the UK law offers a cost/benefit of 2.35 and the EU delivers 1.02 but – and it's a very big "but" – if the UK had produced all the EU law, can we assume that the cost/benefit would have turned out at 2.35 instead of 1.02?

And that, of course, is the point. Different law sets will have different outturns, with the cost/benefit ratio determined as much by its nature as its origin. The idea that changing the source of the legislation will, necessarily, produce a different outcome is surely absurd.

However, from here the plot thickens. When Mr Roger Bootle's firm Capital Economics produced its NExit plan for Wilder's Partij voor de Vrijheid last February – for an undisclosed fee - it went for the "Swiss option" on the basis that the Open Europe scenario could save the Dutch a shed-load of money.

Looking at the comparative analysis of cost/benefit ratios, they decided these could be applied to the Netherlands. Thus, after NExit, Capital Economics argued that, for every regulation transferred from Brussels to Den Haag, costs could be reduced "in line with the difference in the benefit to cost ratios".

Based on an equally dubious estimate of the number of laws that could be repatriated and re-enacted to become domestic law (failing to recognise that much of it now stems from international agreements), the firm then applied the modern equivalent of the magic wand, called "modelling".

This clever technique, straight out of the "climate change" arsenal, allowed Capital Economics to claim that their "Swiss option" gave them an extra €326 billion (2013 prices) in cumulative gross domestic product over the period between 2015 and 2035 (about €15bn a year), "purely from a reduction in the regulatory burden".

Add a nice snazzy diagram (above) and you have a classic example of Bootleomics – very clever and persuasive until you make the mistake of looking at the detail. But, to strengthen its credibility, you can now rely on the six IEA "Brexit" finalists choosing the very same "Swiss option".

And it wouldn't have hurt having that nice Mr Bootle as an advisor to the judging panel, despite being kicked off as a judge after complaints of lack of impartiality. Nice work if you can get it.

Richard North 21/04/2014 link

Brex-kip: the issues combine


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Over on Autonomous Mind is an update to the William Dartmouth "wind turbine" story, which leads us to the conclusion that UKIP MEP is concealing ownership behind layers of obscurity, all to prevent people seeing where the controlling interests lie.

How ironic it is, therefore, that the self-same William Dartmouth is the UKIP spokesman shrieking for openness in the IEA "Brexit" competition, reacting "furiously" to the news that Iain Mansfield, winner of the prize, "has been silenced by the Foreign Office".

Never mind that Mansfield hasn't been silenced – we wouldn't expect a UKIP spokesman to get such a detail right. He has simply been held to his standard contract which prohibits him from speaking to the press without permission from his superiors – something which we would expect of a supposedly neutral civil services.

But Dartmouth is nothing if not determined to parade his ignorance. "It is ludicrous that William Hague and the Foreign Office are hounding this man and censoring his voice simply because he put forward a case for Britain to leave the EU", the man says, oblivious to the fact that Mansfield has written a blueprint on how we leave the EU, once the decision to leave has been made.

As he was careful to explain when he received his prize, he had no view on whether we should leave the EU, and certainly did not "put forward a case for Britain to leave the EU".

One might have, though, that a man so dedicated to openness might be keener to declare his real interest in the wind farm development with which he is being linked. He might also have a view on why the IEA apparently rigged the "Brexit" competition, and seem set on suppressing any options other than that one preferred by IEA former judge and advisor Roger Bootle.

As explained by The Boiling Frog in some detail, the IEA opted for a flawed and relatively rare combination of EFTA membership and exclusion of participation in the EEA in favour of bilateral negotiations with the EU.

By coincidence, it seems, that was precisely the option adopted by Bootle's own firm, Capital Economics, reportedly up for sale for as much as £50 million, set to make Mr Bootle a very wealthy man. The last thing Bootle would have wanted, however, was IEA Brexit prize winners to offer contradictory solutions. That cannot have enhanced his firm's reputation, with possibly adverse financial effects.

How relieved Bootle must have been when all six finalists came up with the same solution, identical to that proposed in his "Nexit" plan, endorsed by a judging panel of which he had been part, and continued to advise despite complaints about his lack of impartiality.

One might have thought that such shenanigans might be just the sort of thing to come to the notice of a UKIP MEP, as the party has a strong interest in seeing a workable exit plan being promoted. But then, William Dartmouth seems to be so wrapped up in his own shenanigans that this one seems to have passed him by.

Thus it is that, when you vote UKIP, a party opposed to both wind farms and the EU, you get wind farms and a rigged EU exit plan, all without a murmur of protest.  It thus seems we must vote EX-KIP. You know it makes sense.


Richard North 18/04/2014 link

FLexCit: the blueprint for leaving the EU


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Since yesterday, I have been reworking my EU exit plan, into single line space format, with Times New Roman font. That brings it down to 98 pages – a reduced number of pages for those who want to print it out. The copy can be downloaded as a .pdf from this link, now entitled "FLexCit", standing for FLexible response and Continuous development.

This is probably the best, most comprehensive and realistic EU exit ("Brexit") plan you are going to get – for a very long while, free to download and to use as appropriate. Unlike many, it is written with a keen eye on the political realities, and is devised for the real world, with no concessions to the little Englander sentimentality that afflicts so much work.

Further, I do not rely on quick-fix superficialities of the type on offer here, in the Capital Economics "Nexit" report, nor flood it with irrelevant graphs and figures as a cheap way of imparting gravitas and authority. The work stands on its own, without artificial aids.

This, then, is the result of four-months intensive writing, under great time pressure, and word count constraints, but based on decades of experience and years of research. It is something UKIP should have produced years ago and, had I still been working with UKIP's political group, I would have produced earlier.

Incidentally, I noticed yesterday, in the run-up to the Clegg-Farage debate, Roland Rudd of British Influence (pictured), crowing that UKIP had not produced an exit plan. However, he cannot now say there is no workable exit plan. There is. It is here, the antidote to FUD and the shape of things to come. Comments and observations, aimed at improving it, would be much appreciated.

Richard North 27/03/2014 link

UKIP: out to lunch


I have less than three working days to complete my IEA "Brexit" submission, with still a massive amount of work to do, not least to deal with the recent Nexit report, which impinges directly on my arguments. I am having to write from scratch a new appendix, taking apart some of the arguments raised.

In the meantime, on one of the major stories of the day, the political fallout from the floods, Autonomous Mind is doing the heavy lifting, pointing out that the response by UKIP's leader, Nigel Farage, marks a new low, the point at which the party walked away from its anti-EU role.

After months of intensive work on "Brexit", however, I must concentrate on what for me is the main event, with the midnight Wednesday deadline looming. Inevitably, therefore, blogging is going to be a little light, but not before a quick guest post on AM's site

UPDATE: And then we have Muppet's half hour, courtesy of Autonomous Mind:
I don't know the truth to the extent the Environment Agency is now bound by European Union rules and laws, I just don't know, which is why we need to have a public inquiry.
So says Nigel Farage - not an ordinary member of the public, but an MEP since 1999 and the leader of the supposedly anti-EU UKIP.

Says one AM commenter: "UKIP don't know about the extent to which UK government is bound by EU rules and laws? Incredible. I thought one of their main reasons for being was to find out such things and point them out, as part of the wider argument for leaving the EU".

Richard North 10/02/2014 link

EU politics: Nexit is go?


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I don't know why this is framed as a report on leaving the euro. Actually, it is about leaving the EU.

For obvious reasons, I'm not going to comment on the substance of thus report, but I would appreciate views on it, and how the findings might apply to "Brexit" and the IEA competition which closes next Wednesday.

I have to admit more than a little concern though.  The report is produced by Capital Economics, whose managing director is Roger Bootle.  He is also a judge on the IEA panel. With his own views in the "Nexit", which impinge on a British exit, can he be considered an impartial judge?    

Richard North 07/02/2014 link

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