Thursday, April 20, 2017

GE17 - And we're off!

Britain’s Prime Minister has fired the gun on a General Election.  The vote will occur on June 8th and presents the electorate with a stark choice – competence and clarity or chaos and calamity.
Let’s see if we can analyse some of the issues facing the UK, at this juncture.
The ‘elephant in the room’ of course is Brexit.  It speaks volumes that Labour want to make the election about taxing and taxing the ‘rich’ and borrowing and borrowing so that they can spend and spend money we don’t have, however, intelligent people know that Brexit is key.
And that key is all about trust.  Does Britain trust Theresa May to deliver a Brexit that is good for the UK or do they trust a makeshift coalition of Labour, the Lib-Dems, the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens? 
Going into these critical Brexit negotiations, Britain needs a strong government with a clear mandate and Brexit policy.  Only the Conservatives offer this.
Consider, Labour doesn’t really know what its policy on Europe or Brexit is.  Prior to starting this article I tried to find out, where they stood.  I am still looking.  They are the party of mass immigration and failed multi-culturalism policies and so one can assume that they support ‘freedom of movement’ (FOM) and yet their position isn’t clearly stated but, simply supporting FOM without also accepting the other three ‘freedoms’, would not be acceptable to the EU. 
The Lib-Dems are rabidly pro-EU.  The media have continually allowed them to lie and lie, since the referendum.  They have repeatedly claimed that the British people weren’t told that voting Leave meant leaving the Single Market.  That’s simply not true.  We were told repeatedly – Cameron, Osborne et al – spoke on all media channels and made this crystal clear.  We knew and we voted the way we did, even though we knew.  Simply put, the UK doesn’t need the Single Market.  We will flourish outside of it.
The SNP are probably the most conflicted.  They are obsessed with Scottish independence.  Even to the extent that they want independence from the UK so that they can be subsumed into the EU super-state.  They have never explained how that equates in any way with a sane person’s concept of independence.  For the SNP, Brexit like Holyrood politics is all part of a game. They are serial mis-managers of the devolved powers for Scotland and now are very worried that Brexit will put a million watt spotlight on their ineptitude.
The Greens?  Well they look at countries like Germany where, through proportional representation (PR), Greens have differing degrees of parliamentary representation and sense that the EU offers them the best hope of the same in the UK.   Of course PR was rejected by the UK electorate, in a referendum but we all know that the Greens, and indeed the Lib-Dems are no respecters of referendum results.
Theresa May has laid out her twelve key Brexit issues in January’s Lancaster House speech. 
The first of these was Certainty and in some way, underpins her going to the country in spite of repeated assurances that she would not call a snap election.  I am often cynical about politicians – age and experience will do that to you – but I do believe that she has to go to the country and gain a mandate rather than be constantly sniped at and sabotaged by ‘Remainers’ and political opportunists from all sides.  I sincerely hope she is re-elected in June and has a sizable parliamentary majority with which to govern. 
To return for a moment to political gamers.  Theresa May has had to contend, on a constant basis with opposition politicians saying she had no ‘mandate’ with which to run the country or Britain’s Brexit negotiations.  They say that she ‘wasn’t elected’.  In part that’s true but then no Prime Minister is ‘elected’.  They are selected to lead the party with the largest parliamentary presence and then invited, by HM The Queen, to form a government.  All of them, exactly the same way.  Now though, that she is seeking such a clear mandate, she is castigated by these very same politicians, as being ‘opportunistic’.  See why I am sometimes cynical?
Inextricably linked with Brexit is the subject of immigration.  May, in her Lancaster House speech was clear on the need to control immigration.  And that is the nub – control of immigration.  Post-Brexit control of immigration will rest with the UK.  We will not be instructed, as some other EU partners have been, that there is a quota which we must take in.  The UK will allow immigration to meet our needs not to fulfil some lunacy that comes from the mind of a deranged German Chancellor or the fools in the EU headquarters.  The UK will control immigration.
Labour have always portrayed themselves as the protectors of the NHS and as being very pro-education.  Yet it is precisely Labour’s policy of uncontrolled immigration which has put such strains on the NHS. Leave aside for a moment, so called health tourism.  The numbers of immigrants that came in during Labour’s reign cannot be absorbed into a strained NHS – there simply are not enough hospitals, nurses and doctors.  Nor could we afford to have sufficient.  The same applies to schools – we cannot afford to build enough nor to train and employ sufficient teachers.  It is typically appropriate of Labour that their policies are never thought through.  They import millions of immigrants but fail to provide services like housing, health and schooling for them. 
And who suffers most?  Not the well-off or ‘middle-class’.  They don’t live in inner-cities.  They can send their children to private schools rather than over-crowded State ones. They can avail of private medicine rather than wait weeks or months for a GP or hospital appointment. No it is the traditional Labour voter that suffers – the White working class.  These voters see access to medical services as just about impossible, see their children crammed into classrooms alongside immigrant children who cannot even speak English and see their educational opportunities suffer as resources are diverted and they see scarce housing resources given to and funded for, immigrants rather than for native born people.  That’s Labour for you!
Another ‘elephant in the room’ seems to be whether or not Theresa May should/will participate in TV debates.  Firstly, these are an unwelcome American import that serve little to advance democracy or understanding of a political party’s policies.  The smaller parties, who have zero chance of gaining power, can simply make wild promises and score cheap shots off of the major ones.  Secondly, since the Scottish Nationalists and Plaid Cymru and Sinn Fein and the Ulster Unionists are not national parties why on earth would they participate? 
If I were Theresa May, I would recognise that with such a commanding opinion poll lead, I would have nothing to gain from participation and perhaps something to lose.  Just as importantly, I would continue to go over the heads of the overly self-important political correspondents and talk directly to the people.  Remember, my vote is as important as any of these jumped-up wanna-bes!

So I will jump the gun and offer some ideas, other than being strong on Brexit, for inclusion in the Conservative manifesto.
I will start with International Aid.  The 0.7% of GDP commitment should be scrapped.  I do believe that we should aspire to give this or even more but we must look after our own, first.  It sickens me (there’s that cynicism again) when I hear politicians talking about child poverty or fuel poverty in the UK and being somehow disgusted by food banks and yet the very same politicians are happy to send huge quantities of UK taxpayer money to oftentimes, corrupt regimes, elsewhere.  A saying that hasn’t gone out of date is ‘Charity begins at Home’.  Oh, and I view food banks as very positive.  These are set-up by British people, funded and supplied by British people and for the benefit of British people.  I know that this cuts out the busy-body charities with their over-paid executives but these food banks speak of the true and decent Britons that we all know.
Next, scrap H2S.  Britain simply doesn’t need this high speed rail system.  What we have is sufficient.  Instead, the government should spend a fraction of the money on dramatically improving broadband connectivity across the UK.  I am not especially ‘green’ but can certainly agree that we don’t need to be expending energy moving people around – we need people to stay put, when possible and to use technology not precious and finite fuels.
While I am in a ‘scrapping’ frame of mind.  Scrap the triple lock on pensions.  Instead, guarantee that State pensions will increase in line with an appropriate measure of inflation.
Controlling immigration will present challenges to certain industries.  These industries have benefited from cheap low waged immigrants.  These businesses have also been subsidised by the UK taxpayer who has provided Working Tax Credits and other Gordon Brown type wheezes which disguised the societal impact of a low wage economy.  Such benefits must be scrapped – not absorbed into the Universal Credit or anything like that, scrapped and the unemployed should have benefits withdrawn if they fail to take up available work.  Yes some will say that is harsh but why should some work to keep others who can work but choose not to?  People who say ‘I don’t want to pick potatoes’ or ‘I don’t want to serve coffees’ or ‘I don’t want to sweep the streets’.

Finally, EVEL!  English votes for English laws.  With the devolved assemblies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, it is simply undemocratic that MPs from those countries can vote on matters that only affect the English.  In such cases, only MPs representing English constituencies should vote. 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

UK's Art. 50 response to EU

At first listen, the tone and words used by Donald Tusk, European Council President, seem helpful and conciliatory but listen again.  The EU response to Britain’s triggering of Article 50 is a poisoned chalice.

There are three main strands to this response.

Firstly, the EU seeks a ‘divorce settlement’.  The figure that has been bandied about is £50-60 Billion.  The EU, which is the shorthand phrase I shall use for Germany, says that they want this resolved before moving on to any deal on the future relationship between the EU and a freed Britain.  In a ‘conciliatory’ frame of mind, they say that they only want to see progress on this matter – so the general terms of reference based on what the UK should pay – rather than an actual number. 

This though is a trap.  Progress’ will not be made on anything that the UK proposes which takes account of prior contributions, for example. 

In the past 40+ years, the UK has contributed a net £500 Billion plus to the EU.  That is a net number – money that has flowed from Britain out to the EU.  That is money that has been ‘invested’ in farm support payments to French, Italian and Greek farmers but also much investment has been made into roads and buildings across the EU.  These represent the ‘assets’ of the EU and Britain’s contribution to these needs to be recognised.  Since the talk is of a ‘divorce settlement’ think of these as the main home and second homes that the British spouse has contributed to.  In a divorce the value of these would be considered.  The EU only wants to consider their own future expenditure and Britain’s contribution to that.  So, ascribing no value to the past contributions. 

So, in the eyes of the EU, the more than €24 Billion that Britain invested in the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is ignored. (Oh, and that is not part of my earlier quoted £500 Billion number!).  Neither is the €39 Billion invested in the European Investment Bank (EIB).  Nor are the amounts invested in the EU offices that have spread around the globe.

Second part of the response is the Spanish sop.  Essentially, the EU is seeking to make a condition of a deal, that Spain should have a say regarding Gibraltar.  The same Gibraltar that voted 99% to 1% to want to remain a British Overseas Territory, in a recent referendum.  Spain has long coveted Gibraltar, which fell under British rule back in 1713. 

I think of this part of the response a ‘false flag’ Something to get us to focus on this and become highly irate so that eventually, when the EU give in on this, it can be dressed-up as a major concession.  Simply put, the EU, Spain and the UK know that this isn’t even on the table.  It is though an irritant and one that the EU know will be seen as so.

The third part of the response is the most critical.  The EU seeks to control Britain’s post-Brexit taxation and regulation policies.  The EU is a typical bureaucratic entity.  They look for uniformity so that no country stands out and can attract investment or set policies that are appropriate for itself. 

Britain already has a pro-enterprise approach to Corporate taxation and, if it can silence its internal socialist envy-peddlers, will have a personal income tax policy that promotes individual rather than State growth. 

The EU know that Britain will continue down this pathway.  They are seeking, by the dangerous third component to their response, to stifle this.  Should they succeed, then parts of the Brexit Referendum Project Fear will be fulfilled. 

What kind of country, other than a client state, (which is increasingly how we must see the relationship between Germany and the other EU ‘nations’) cannot control its own levels of taxation and regulations?  What would be the point of Brexit if we are controlled by Brussels (Berlin on the Zenne)?

So!  The response from the UK Government needs to be as follows:

Dear President Tusk,

We have heard of your proposals regarding our invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

In order to facilitate discussions, I advise, on behalf of the UK Government, that we will not accept any discussions about or inclusion of the status of Gibraltar in these discussions and most specifically will not allow any talks of a bilateral nature between Spain and the UK, to be a part of such discussions.

In a similar vein, the UK Government will not allow the EU to have any say or competency over Britain’s taxation or regulatory regimes once we exit the EU.

Finally, as a gesture of goodwill, the UK will not pursue a refund of its share of contributions made to the EU, during the course of its membership.  Linked to this is an understanding that the UK will make no further contributions to the EU, from the day that the UK’s membership of the EU, actually ceases.

Yours sincerely

Theresa May
On behalf of the UK Government

I have no doubt that such a letter would be found, by the EU-favouring Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to be lacking in diplomatic finesse.  That is intentional.  A very clear message needs to be sent.  Very clear.  When Theresa May said ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ this wasn’t rhetoric.  She was speaking on behalf of the UK.  We do not expect to spend two years discussing issues on which we simply will never concede.  The EU need to understand that, immediately.  The gloves need to come off.  Diplomatic niceties are not what is needed, plain talking and backbone are. 

We would look for a partnership with the EU but a partnership of equals. If that is what the EU wants then they should start seriously negotiating and they should cease with  their delaying tactics which they know will not be conceded. 

Oh and yes, regarding the thinly veiled threat concerning security cooperation.  The EU and its apologists within the UK, need to understand that Britain doesn’t do anything for free and the contribution to Europol and security matters, from the UK is far superior to that from other member states.  Theresa May was absolutely right to put this on the table.