Film review – Brexit: the movie

Director  and narrator Martin Durkin

Running time 71 minutes

As an instrument   to rally the leave vote  Brexit: the movie is severely flawed.  It starts promisingly by stressing the loss of sovereignty , the lack of democracy in the EU and the corrupt greed of its servants (my favourite abuse was a shopping mall for EU politicians and bureaucrats only – eat your heart out Soviet Union) and the ways in which  Brussels spends British taxpayers money and sabotages industries such as fishing.  Then  it all begins to go sour.

The film’s audience should have been the British electorate  as a whole.  That means making a film which appeals to all who might vote to leave using arguments which are not nakedly  politically  ideological. Sadly, that is precisely what has not  happened here because Brexit the movie  has as   director and narrator Martin Durkin, a card carrying disciple of the neo-liberal creed. Here are a couple of snatches from his website:

Capitalism is the free exchange of services voluntarily rendered and received. It is a relationship between people, characterized by freedom. Adding ‘global’ merely indicates that governments have been less than successful at hindering the free exchange of people’s services across national boundaries.

And

Well it’s time to think the unthinkable again, and to privatise the biggest State monopoly of all … the monopoly which is so ubiquitous it usually goes unnoticed, but which has impoverished us more than any other and is the cause of the current world banking and financial crisis.  It is time to privatise money.

Unsurprisingly Durkin has filled the film with people who with varying degrees of fervour share his ideological beliefs. These include John Redwood,  James Delingpole, Janet Daley, Matt Ridley, Mark Littlewood,  Daniel Hannon, Patrick Minford, Melanie Phillips Simon Heffer, Michael Howard and  Douglas Carswell , all supporting the leave side but doing so in a way which would alienate those who have not bought into the free market free trade ideology. The only people interviewed in the film who were from the left of the political spectrum are Labour’s biggest donor John Wells and Labour MPs  Kate Hoey and Steve Baker.

There is also a hefty segment of the film  (20.50 minutes – 30 minutes)  devoted to a risibly false  description of Britain’s economic history from the beginnings of the industrial revolution to the  position of Britain in the 1970s.  In it Durkin claims that the nineteenth century was a time of a very unregulated British economy, both domestically and  with regard to international trade, which allowed Britain to grow and flourish wondrously .  In fact, the first century and half or so of the Industrial Revolution  up to around 1860 was conducted under what was known as the Old Colonial System,   a very  wide-ranging form of protectionism. In addition, the nineteenth century saw the introduction of many Acts which regulated the employment of children and the conditions of work for employees in general and  for much of the century  the century  magistrates had much wider powers than they do today such as setting the price of basic foodstuffs and wages and enforcing apprenticeships.

Durkin then goes on to praise Britain’s continued economic expansion up until the Great War which he ascribes to Britain’s rejection of protectionism. The problem with this is that   Britain’s adherence to the nearest any country have ever gone  to free trade – the situation  is complicated by Britain’s huge Empire –  between 1860 and 1914 is a period of comparative industrial decline  with highly protectionist countries such as the USA and Germany making massive advances.

Next, Durkin paints a picture of a Britain regulated half to death in the Great War, regulation which often  continued into the peacetime inter-war years before a further dose of war in 1939  brought with it even more state control. Finally, the period of 1945 to the coming of Thatcher is represented as a time of a British economy over-regulated and protected economy falling headlong  into an abyss of uncompetitive economic failure before  Thatcher rescued the country.

The reality is that Britain came out of the Great Depression faster than any other large economy, aided by a mixture of removal from the Gold Bullion Standard, Keynsian pump priming and re-armament, all of these being state measures.  As for the period 1945 until the oil shock of 1973,   British economic growth was higher than it has been  overall in the forty years  since.

Even if the film had given a truthful account of Britain’s economic history over the past few centuries  there would have been a problem. Having speaker after speaker putting forward the laissez faire  position, saying that Britain would be so much more prosperous if they could trade more with the rest of the world by  having much less regulation, being open to unrestricted foreign investment   and, most devastatingly,  that it  would allow people to be recruited from around the world rather than just the EU or EEA (with the implication that it is racist to privilege Europeans over people from Africa and Asia) is not  the way  to win people to the leave side.

The legacy of Thatcher  is problematic.  Revered by true believers in  the neo-liberal  credo she is hated by many  more for there  are still millions in the country who detest what she stood for and  for whom people spouting the same kind of rhetoric she used in support of Brexit  is  a  turn off. To them can be  added  many others who instinctively feel that globalisation is wrong and threatening and talk of economics in which human beings are treated as pawns deeply repulsive.

There is also a  truly  astonishing  omission in the film. At the most modest assessment immigration is one of the major concerns of  British electors  (and probably the greatest concern  when the fear of being called a racist if one opposes immigration is factored in), yet the film avoids the subject. There is a point  towards the end of the film (go in at  61 minutes) when it briefly  looks as though it might be raised when the commentary poses the question “Ah, what if the  EU proposes a trade deal which forces upon us open borders and other stuff  we don’t like?   But that leads to no discussion  about immigration,  merely the  statement of  the pedantically  true claim that Britain  does not have to sign a treaty if its terms are not acceptable. This of course begs the question of who will decide what is acceptable. There a has been no suggestion that there are any lines in the sand which will not be crossed in negotiations with the EU and there is no promise of a second referendum after terms have been negotiated with the EU or, indeed,  with any other part of the world. Consequently,   electors can have no confidence those who conduct  negotiations will not give away vital things such as control of our borders.

As immigration is such a core part of  what  British voters worry about most ,both in the EU context and immigration generally,  it is difficult to come up with a an explanation for this startling omission  which  is not pejorative. It can only have been done for one of two reasons:  either the maker of the film  did not want the issue addressed or many of those appearing in the film  would  not have appeared if the  immigration drum had been beaten.  In view of both Durkin’s ideological position and the general tenor of the film,  the most plausible reason is that Durkin did not want the subject discussed because the idea of free movement of labour is a central part of the neo-liberal  ideology. He will see labour as simply a factor of production along with land and capital. Durkin  even managed to include interviews conducted in Switzerland (go in at 52 minutes )which  painted the country as a land of milk and honey without  mentioning that the Swiss had a citizen initiated referendum on restricting immigration in 2014 and are pushing for another.

The point at issue is not whether neo-liberalism is a good or a bad thing,  but the fact that an argument for leaving the EU which is primarily based on the ideology is bound to alienate many who do not think kindly of the EU, but who do not share the neo-liberal’s enthusiasm for an  unregulated or under-regulated  economy   and  a commitment to globalism, which frequently means  jobs are either off-shored or taken by immigrants who undercut wages and place a great strain on public services. This in practice results in mass immigration , which apart from competition for jobs, houses  and services,   fundamentally alters the  nature of the areas of  Britain in  which  immigrants settle and,  in the longer term, the  nature of Britain itself .

The excessive  concentration on economic matters is itself a major flaw, because  most of the electorate  will  variously not be able to understand , be bored by the detail  and turn off or  simply disregard the claims made as being  by their  nature  unknowable in reality. The difficulty of incomprehension and boredom is  compounded by there being  far  too many talking heads, often  speaking for a matter of seconds at a time.  I also found the use of Monty Python-style graphics irritatingly shallow and  a sequence lampooning European workers compared with the Chinese downright silly (go in at  37 minutes).

What the film should have done was rest  the arguments for leaving on the question of  sovereignty.  That is what this vote is all about: do you want Britain to be a sovereign nation ? Everything flows from the question of sovereignty : can we control our borders?; can we make our own laws?  Once sovereignty is seen as the only real question, then what we may or may not do after regaining our sovereignty is in our hands. If the British people wish to have a  more regulated market they can vote for it. If they want a neo-liberal economy they can vote for it. The point is that at present we cannot vote for either . As I mentioned in my introduction the sovereignty issue is raised many times in the film.  The problem is that it was so often  tied into the idea of free trade and unregulated markets that the sovereignty message raises the question in many minds of what will those with power – who overwhelmingly have bought into globalism and neo-liberal economics –  do with sovereignty rather than the value of sovereignty itself.

Will the film help the leave cause? I think it is the toss of a coin whether it will persuade more people to vote leave than or alienate more with  its neo-liberal message.

 

 

Posted in Film reviews | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Brexiteers: hold your nerve

Robert Henderson

Recent polls are overall veering towards   but not decisively towards a remain  win in the referendum.  It is important that those wanting  leave the EU should not get downhearted. There are still the TV debates to come which will expose the often hypocritical and always vacuous positions those advocating  a vote to remain will of necessity have to put forward because  they have no hard facts to support their position and  can offer only a catalogue of ever more wondrously improbable disasters they claim will happen if Brexit occurs, everything from the collapse of the world economy to World War III  The only things they have  not predicted are a giant  meteorite hitting Earth and wiping out the  human race or, to entice the religious inclined vote, the coming of the end of days.

There are other signs which should hearten the leave camp. There appears little doubt that those who intend to vote to leave  will on average be more likely to turn out to vote than those who  want to remain.. This is partly because older voters  favour Brexit more than younger voters and older voters are much more likely to turn out and actually vote.  But there is also the question of what people are voting for.  Leaving  to become masters in our own house is a positive message. There is nothing  positive about the remain  side’s blandishments.  A positive message is always likely to energise people to act than a negative one. Moreover, what the remain side are saying directly or by implication is that at best they have no confidence in their own country and at worst they want Britain to be in the EU to ensure that it is emasculated as a nation state because they disapprove of nation states.  Such a stance will make even those tending towards voting to remain to perhaps either not vote or to switch to voting leave.

What should we make of the polls?

What should we make of the polls?  Leaving aside the question of how accurate they are, it is interesting that the polls which are showing strongest for a vote to remain are the telephone polls. Those conducted online tend to produce a close result, often half and half on either side.  Some have the Leave side ahead. On the face of things this is rather odd because traditional polling wisdom has it that online polls will tend to favour younger people for the obvious reason that the young are much more likely be comfortable living their lives online than  older people.  Even if online polls are chosen to represent a balanced sample including age composition the fact that older people are generally not so computer savvy means that any sample used with older people is unlikely to represent older generally whereas  the part of the polling audience which is young can be made to represent  the  younger part of the population  because  almost all of the young use digital technology without thinking.

It is likely that the older people who contribute to online polls are richer and  better educated on average than the old as a group. But that  brings its own problem for the remain side because another article of faith amongst pollsters is that the better educated and richer you are the more likely you are to vote to remain  in the EU.  Moreover, if the samples are properly selected for both online and  phone polls why should there be such a difference?   Frankly, I have my doubts about  samples being  properly selected because  there are severe practical problems when it comes to  identifying the people who will make a representative sample.  Polling companies also weight their  results which must at the least introduce an element of subjectivity. Then there is also the panel effect where pollsters use panels made up of people they have vetted and  decided are panel material.  Pollsters admit all these difficulties.  You can find the pollster YouGov’s  defence of such practices and how they supposedly overcome their  difficulties here.

The performance of pollsters in recent years has been underwhelming.  It could be that their polling on the referendum is  badly  wrong.  That could be down to the problems detailed in the previous paragraph, but it could also be how human beings respond to different forms of polling.  Pollsters have been caught out by the “silent Tory” phenomenon  whereby voters are unwilling to say they intend to vote Tory much more often than voters for other parties such  as Labour and the LibDems  are unwilling to admit they will be voting for those parties.   It could be that there  are “silent Brexiteer”  voters who  refuse to admit to wanting to vote  to leave the  EU,  while there are  no  or very few corresponding  “silent remain” voters.  This could explain why Internet polls show more Brexit voters than phone or face-to-face  polls.  If a voter is speaking to a pollster, especially if they are in the physical company of the pollster, the person will feel they are being judged by the person asking the questions.  If they think their way of voting is likely to be disapproved of by the questioner  because it is not the “right view”,   the person being questioned may well feel embarrassed if they say they are supporting  a view which goes against what  is promoted every day in the mainstream media as the “right view” .  The fact that the person asking the questions is also likely  to come from the same general class as those who dominate the mainstream media  heightens the likelihood of embarrassment on the part of those being questioned.

The “embarrassment factor”  is a phenomenon  which  can be seen in the polling on contentious subjects  generally. Take  immigration  as an example. People are terrified of being labelled as a racist. At the same time they are quite reasonably very anxious  about the effects of mass immigration.  They  try to square the circle of their real beliefs with their fear of being labelled a racist – and it takes precious little for the cry of racist to go up these days – by seizing  on reasons to object to mass immigration which they believe have been sanctioned as safe by those with power  and influence such  as saying that they are not  against immigrants but they  think that illegal immigrants should be sent home or that the numbers of immigrants should be much reduced because of the pressure on schools, jobs, hospitals and housing . What they dare not say is  that they object to immigration full stop because it changes the nature of their society.

There is an element of the fear of being called a racist  in Brexit because a main, probably the primary issue for  most of those wanting to vote to leave  in the referendum is the control of borders. This means that   saying you are for Brexit raises in the person’s mind a worry that this will be interpreted as racist at worst and “little Englanderish” at best.

There is a secondary reason why  those being interviewed are nervous. The poll they are contributing to will not be just a single question, such  as how do you intend to vote in the European referendum?  There will be  a range of questions which are designed to show things such as propensity to vote or which issues are the most important. Saying immigration control raises the problem of fear of being  classified as  racist, but there will be other issues which are nothing like as contentious on which the person being polled really does not have a coherent   opinion.  They will then feel a fear of being thought ignorant or stupid if they cannot explain lucidly why they feel this or that policy is important.

That leaves the question of why online polls show more for Brexit and phone or face-to-face-polls.  I suggest this. Answering a poll online is impersonal. There is no sense of being immediately judged by another.  The psychology is akin to going into a ballot booth  and voting.  This results in more honesty  about voting to leave.

The referendum  is just the beginning of the  war

Whatever the result of the referendum that will not be the end of matters. There is a gaping  hole in the referendum debate . There has been no commitment  by  any politician to what exactly  they would be asking for from  the EU if the vote is to leave and what they would definitely not accept.   Should that happen we must do our best ensure that those undertaking the negotiations on Britain’s behalf do not surreptitiously  attempt to subvert the vote by stitching Britain back into the EU by negotiating a treaty which obligates Britain to  such things as free movement of people  between Britain and the EU and a  hefty payment each year to the EU (a modern form of Danegeld).   A vote to leave must give Britain back her sovereignty  utterly  and that means Westminster being able to  pass any laws it wants  and that these   will supersede any  existing  obligations to foreign states and institutions, having absolute control of Britain’s borders, being able to protect strategic British  industries and giving preference to British companies where public contracts are offered to  private business.

It there is a  vote to remain  that does not mean the question of  Britain leaving is closed for a generation  any more than the vote of Scottish independence sealed the matter for twenty years or more.  For another referendum  to be ruled out for several decades would be both dangerous and profoundly undemocratic.

Imagine that Britain  having voted to remain the EU decides to push through legislation to bring about the United States of Europe which many of the most senior Eurocrats and pro-EU politicians have made no bones about wanting,  the EU  wants Turkey  to be given membership,  immigration from and via the EU continues to run out of hand  or  the EU adopts regulations for  financial services which gravely  damage the City of London.  Are we to honestly say that no future referendum cannot be held?

Of course on some issues such as the admission of new members  Britain still has a veto  but can we be certain that it would used to stop Turkey joining?  David Cameron has made it all too  clear that he supports  Turkey’s accession and the ongoing immigrant crisis in the Middle East has already wrung the considerable concession of visa-free travel in the Schengen Area from the EU without the Cameron government offering any complaint. Instead all that Cameron does is bleat that Britain still has border controls which allow Britain to refuse entry to and deport those from outside the EU and the European Economic Area.  However, this is the same government which has been reducing Britain’s border force and has deported by force very few people.

You may  think that if new members are admitted to the EU a referendum would automatically be held under the European Union Act of 2011. Not so, viz: .

4 Cases where treaty or Article 48(6) decision attracts a referendum

(4)A treaty or Article 48(6) decision does not fall within this section merely because it involves one or more of the following—

(a)the codification of practice under TEU or TFEU in relation to the previous exercise of an existing competence;

(b)the making of any provision that applies only to member States other than the United Kingdom;

(c)in the case of a treaty, the accession of a new member State.

In practice it would be up to the government of the day to decide whether a referendum should be held.  The  circumstances where the Act requires a referendum are to do with changes to the powers and duties of EU members. The simple  accession of a new member does not fall under those heads.Nor does the Act provide for a referendum where there is no change to existing EU treaties or massive changes are made  without a Treaty being involved, for example,  Britain has had no referendum on Turkey  being given visa free movement within  the Schengen Area.

Make sure you vote

Regardless of what the Polls say make sure you vote The bigger the victory for the OUT side the less the Europhiles will be able to do to subvert what happens after the vote.   If the vote is to stay  the closer it is the less traction it gives the -Europhiles .  Either way, the vote on the 23 June is merely the first battle in a war, not the end of the war.

Posted in Immigration, Nationhood | Tagged , | 3 Comments

The uglification of cricket

Robert Henderson

I started watching English  first class  cricket in the mid-1950s. At the time  limited overs  games did not exist. There were three day matches for   teams below Test level and five day matches for Tests.  Players wore white (or cream) clothing with no numbers on their backs to identify them.  For  spectators unfamiliar with them, the players were identified from the scorecard number  shown on the scoreboards for both batsmen and fielders when they fielded the ball.  The combination of white-clad players and green cricket field gave a natural and elegant  look to the game recalling its origins in country fields.

Batsmen  wore a minimum of protective equipment. They had  pads , rudimentary gloves, a box and possibly a single thigh pad for the leading leg, the last often consisting of  no more than a towel thrust  down the trousers.  Despite  this meagre protection players were rarely hit seriously because they were not so encumbered  that their mobility was seriously restricted and the automatically developed skill in moving out of the way of balls which constituted a threat.   They batted bareheaded or with a cap. Batsmen were recognisable human beings

Today batsmen come to the crease looking like Michelin men  with their bumper bras, arm guards, massive thigh pads which go round each thigh plus helmets caging their faces with unsightly bars  which are worn regardless of the threat a bowler carries.   All  this gear makes batsmen look ugly at best and ridiculous at worst.  They are much less mobile and  because of the supposed safety provided by helmets  are frequently tempted to  play hooks and pulls recklessly and inexpertly.   This often ends up with them being hit on the head.  I also suspect that helmets restrict a batsman’s vision at worst and at best have a deleterious psychological effect. Generally, the considerable extra protective equipment worn today must make batsmen feel uncomfortable and be  liable to be a distraction.  The same objection applies to the growing fashion for wicket keepers to wear  helmets when standing up.

50 or 60 years ago pitches were prepared as individual counties  and other authorities such as Oxford and Cambridge  clubs wanted. There were no pitch inspectors. If a county side went to play Derbyshire away they knew they  would be playing on a pitch favourable to seam bowling; a visit to Gloucestershire would mean a spinning pitch. Batsmen had to master very varied and often demanding conditions.  In addition to whatever human design went into an individual pitch,  Nature was given her way by refusing to cover pitches and runups.  This meant that  anyone playing county cricket  regularly  could expect to encounter rain damaged pitches several times a season at least. This further improved the skills of serious batsmen. Bowlers also had to learn to bowl at their most effective in helpful conditions.

The consequence  of demanding pitches meant that batsmen had to develop a seriously good technique to survive.  This meant  having an orthodox  stance  with the bat not waving about (bar perhaps a thump or two of the bat as the bowler ran in)  and most importantly, keeping the head still. A good example of this stillness and neatness can be seen in this extended video of the 1963 Lords Test against the West Indies.  There  were few oddities like Jim Yardley of Worcestershire with awkward stances but they were very much the exception.

Demanding pitches also gave the bowler a much greater incentive to bowl straight and to bowl consistently, something bowlers of today routinely fail to do.   It is a common mistake to imagine that having pitches doing something means a bowler has to do little more than pitch a ball up and let the pitch do the rest. In fact, bowlers need to learn how to bowl in helpful conditions top make the most of them.   Taking 5-60 on a pitch where 5-20  could reasonably be expected is poor not good bowling.

Today batsmen  are increasingly at sea whenever they encounter conditions which allow the bowlers to swing, seam or spin the ball. This is partly because of the covering of pitches, the existence of pitch inspectors who take fright at pitches which help the bowler resulting in points being deducted  and the fact that much less first class cricket  (where good technique is developed)  is played today., But it is  also because batsmen are increasingly adjusting their techniques  to  play  T20 cricket where the real money is to be made.

Batsmen, almost universally amongst the young players,  are  adopting one a  stance which has the bat raised , either  locked in an awkward  stillness or waving about with the head moving as well as the body. Some add to this ungainly position by leaning forward with their weight on the front foot and the bat slanted forward. This cannot be the optimum method of waiting for the bowler because the batsman will be concentrating on holding the bat up or moving about the  crease. In the case of the bat slanted forward that virtually commits the batsman to a front foot shot and at best means the batsman has to waste precious microseconds if he has to play off the back foot.

The  growing eminence of T20 is resulting in the taking into first class cricket these  defective techniques  together with the T20 mentality of needing to score quickly regardless of the conditions and situation of the game.  To these batting sins must be added the toleration of switch hits such as the reverse sweep, shots which are the batsman’s equivalent of a bowler being able to go over or round the wicket at will without advising the batsman in advance and consequently should be banned. They are also very ugly shots.

The emphasis on limited overs cricket generally and T20 in particular is also having a malign effect on bowlers who strive to contain rather than take wickets.  Ironically this often results in bowlers being slogged unmercifully because their bowling ends up as  both inconsistent and poorly executed  as they strive for ever greater variation,  with frequent and radical changes of pace which are generally poorly disguised, slow bouncers and attempted Yorkers which more often than not end up as low full tosses.  This species of bowling is also encouraged by the lack of close catchers in limited overs cricket and the frequent reduction of wicket keepers to little more than glorified longstops.  It is also probably no coincidence that today there is barely a fast bowler worthy of the name and spin bowling is  dying on its feet.  This can be plausibly attributed to bowlers adapting themselves to T20. Because the decline of pace bowlers and spinners has coincided with the advent of  the format.     Genuine pace can be expensive in terms of  runs scored off edges  and fast bowlers are rarely as accurate as fast medium ones, while spin bowlers in  bowl flat most of the time and are found out in  the first class game where more than  flat barely turning deliveries are  needed to dismiss batsmen with a great deal of time for to play themselves in.

In fact, T20  is a game barely recognisable as cricket.   The present T20 world cup has  batsmen displaying stances which must by their very nature leave a batsman unable to react in the most efficient fashion, batsmen dancing about the crease before the bowler bowls,  batsmen playing  strokes,  many of which are wild slogs, which they could never play safely in a first class match. As for bowlers, they have largely served as helpless cannon fodder, something they have  been complicit in by inconsistent bowling which has included  an embarrassing number of  full tosses , many of which have gone for six. Close catching has been rare if not  non-existent.  Add in the coloured clothing and numbers on a player’s back and it might almost be baseball.

The danger for professional  cricket is twofold: that the skills necessary to play first class cricket in general and Test cricket in particular will be lost and that T20 will prove to lack staying power because it has a decided one-dimensional quality, regardless of the many close finishes which occur.  The problem is that exiting cricket does not equal good cricket and that is true with knobs on when a match only lasts 40 overs.  Sooner or later boredom will set in and the lack of quality will matter.

T20 is terribly  vulnerable to  being a shortish term fad. Who honestly remembers the results of  international T20 games or even ODIs as the results of Test matches and series are commonly  remembered?  In my experience few  cricket followers could tell you the winners of  ODI series   or recall even the winners of  T20 World Cups.  The same applies to individual performances.  Bowlers restricted to ten overs in ODIs  or four in T20 cannot produce great feats.  A batsman scoring 50 in a T20 match will have done well,  but it is scarcely likely to be an innings which remains in the memory, not least because so much of the strokeplay is ugly to watch. Who can take pleasure in watching low full tosses hit for six with what are essentially baseball shots?.

If T20 does lose its current popularity in, say, twenty years time there will be a generation of professional cricketers who will have  developed their games to play  T20 and in all probability will have little first class experience. It is even possible that first class  cricket may have died completely.  If first class cricket has been seriously diminished  and  T20 falls out of fashion it is all too possible that cricket itself will die or at the least cease to be a serious international sport.

Posted in Sport | Tagged | 3 Comments

The EU refuses to answer questions about post-Article 50 activation by the UK

I emailed the EU with two questions;
1. What will be the position of UK MEPs after Article 50 is activated?
2. What will be position regarding the UK’s payments to  the EU after Article 50 is activated?
The EU’s non-reply suggests that the position on both matters and anything else relating to post-Article 50 activation is not set in stone. In other words what happens after Article 50 is activated will be pure politics not legal rights and duties.
The other interesting point  about their reply is the endorsement of Cameron’s claim for his “concessions” is  that they are legally enforceable. This  could either mean that the EU is happy to cynically promise what they would never grant in practice or that the “concessions” are so minor the EU does not think them of any consequence. Here is their reply in full:
Dear Robert Henderson,

Thank you for your message. 
The Europe Direct (EDCC) service is unable to comment on present policies or future developments regarding the role of the UK in the EU. Neither EDCC nor The Commission can speculate on hypothetical situations. However we thank you for your comment.
At a historic meeting of the European Council on 18 – 19 February 2016, Heads of State or Government reached agreement on a ‘New Settlement for the United Kingdom within the European Union’. This agreement will permit Prime Minister Cameron to campaign for the United Kingdom to stay in the European Union in the upcoming referendum on 23 June 2016. 
The set of arrangements is a legally binding agreement, which addresses the concerns of the United Kingdom and safeguards the values of the Union.
Following the European Council, European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, welcomed the agreement at a press conference: “The deal we have agreed now is a fair one, a fair one for Britain, a fair one for the other Member States, a fair one for the European Union. It is fair, it is also legally sound. The deal responds to all the concerns of the United Kingdom, and respects the basic principles of our Union. At the same time it safeguards the integrity of the single market and the cohesion of the Eurozone. This deal does not deepen cracks in our Union but builds bridges.”
You can find more information about the UK-EU settlement at:
http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/european-council/2016/02/18-19/
Please make sure you check the European Council conclusions, 18-19 February 2016, as well.
We hope you find this information useful.



With kind regards, 
EUROPE DIRECT Contact Centre 
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Article 50 is a poisoned chalice – Don’t drink from it

Robert Henderson

Those who think that British Europhile politicians   will  play fair if Britain votes to leave the EU in June will be horribly disappointed. The public may think that if the British people have voted to leave the EU and that is an end of it regardless of the wishes of the Government.   Sadly, there is every reason to expect that Brexit will be anything but a clean break from the EU.

To begin with there has been no commitment by Cameron to stand down as PM if the vote goes against him.  Quite the opposite for he  has publicly stated several  times that  he will stay on and many  Tory MPs, including some of those in favour of leaving like Chris Grayling ,  have said that he must remain in No 10 whatever the outcome of the referendum .

If Cameron stays on as PM after a vote to leave Britain would be in the absurd position of having a man in charge of  Britain’s withdrawal who has shown his all too eager  commitment to the EU by the feebleness of   the demands he made during  his “renegotiation” and his regularly repeated statement before the conclusion of the “renegotiation”  that he was sure he would get new terms which would allow him to campaign for Britain to remain within the EU.   

A post-referendum   Cameron  government entrusted with negotiating Britain’s departure from the EU would mean that not only the  PM  but  the majority of his  cabinet and ministers below  cabinet  level  will  be  drawn from the same pro-EU personnel as he has today.  In those circumstances Cameron and his fellow Europhiles would almost certainly try to stitch Britain back into the EU with a deal such as that granted to  Norway and Switzerland. If that happened Britain could end up with the most important issue in the British  public’s mind –  free movement  of not only labour but free movement of anyone with the right to permanent residence in the EU – untouched .

But if Cameron leaves  of his own accord soon after a vote to leave Britain could still end up with a Europhile  Prime Minister and Cabinet.  Why? By  far the most likely person to succeed him  is Boris Johnson. If he  does become  PM there is every reason to believe that he will also do his level best to enmesh Britain back into  the EU.  Ever since Johnson  became the Telegraph’s  Brussels correspondent in the 1990s he has been deriding the EU, but until coming out as a supporter of voting to leave in the past week he has never advocated Britain’s withdrawal.  Johnson also gave a very strong hint  in the  Daily Telegraph article in which he announced his support for leaving the EU that his support for Britain leaving the EU was no more than  a ploy to persuade the EU to offer  more significant concessions than those offered to Cameron. Johnson has also been a regular advocate of the value of immigration.

The scenario of Cameron or Johnson deliberately subverting the intention of a referendum vote  to leave are all too plausible. There has been no public discussion let alone  agreement by leading  politicians over what the British government may or may not negotiate in the event of a vote to leave.   Nor has there been any suggestion by any British politician or party  that whatever the terms offered by the EU the British public will have the right to vote on them in a referendum.  Britain could be left  with  an agreement decided by the British Government and the EU which might do nothing of what  the British public most wants and  has voted for, namely, the return of sovereignty and  the control of Britain’s borders.

Then  there is Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.  Both Cameron and Johnson are committed to doing so within the terms of the Lisbon Treaty of  2009.  Far from a vote to leave in the referendum putting Britain in the position of a  sovereign nation engaging in a negotiation for a treaty with the EU  it traps  Britain into an extended period of negotiation whose outcome is dependent on the agreement or non-agreement of  the 27 other EU member states and the  EU Parliament.  Let me quote  the Article in  full:

Article 50

  1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.
  2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.
  3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.
  4. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it.

A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

  1. If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49. (

Article 50  means that Britain could spend two years negotiating and get no treaty because the Council of Ministers could veto it through Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) or the European Parliament reject it. Britain would then have the option of either asking for an extension (which could be indefinite because there is no limit mentioned in the Article) or leaving without a treaty.  There is also the further complication that if a treaty was agreed by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament it would still have to be agreed by 27 EU member states,  either through Parliamentary vote or  in the case of a few including France, a referendum.  Moreover,  even if a treaty is agreed and accepted by all EU member states, this would leave  Britain up in the air for what could be a considerable time as each of the 27 members goes through the process of getting  the agreement of their Parliament or electorate.

The OUT camp must make it clear that  it would be both damaging and unnecessary for the UK to abide by this Treaty requirement. It  would allow the EU to inflict considerable damage on the UK both during the period prior to formally  leaving and afterwards if  the price of leaving with the EU’s agreement was  for  UK to sign up to various obligations, for example, to continue paying a large annual sum to the EU for ten years . It would also give  the Europhile UK political elite  ample opportunity to keep the UK attached to the EU in the manner that Norway and Switzerland are attached by arguing that it is the best deal Britain  can get.  If there was no second  referendum on the  terms  negotiated for Britain leaving the government of the day could simply pass the matter into law without the British voters having a say.

The Gordian knot of Article 50 can be cut simply repealing the European Communities Act and asserting the sovereignty of Parliament.   No major UK party could  object to this on principle because all three have, at one time or another,  declared that Parliament remains supreme and can repudiate anything the EU does if it so chooses.

If the stay-in camp argue that would be illegal because of the  treaty obligation, the OUT camp should simply emphasise  (1) that international law is no law because there is never any means of enforcing it within its jurisdiction is a state rejects it and (2) that treaties which do not allow for contracting parties to simply withdraw are profoundly undemocratic because they bind future governments. There is also the fact that the EU and its predecessor the EEC has constantly breached its own rules, spectacularly so in the case of the Eurozone.  Hence, for the EU treaties are anything but sacrosanct.

Posted in Culture, Economics, Immigration, Nationhood | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Grassroots Out (GO) public meeting of 19th February 2016 at the QE II Convention Hall in Westminster

A recording of the meeting can be found here

Speakers: David Campbell Bannerman (Tory MEP),  Gerard Batton (Ukip  MEP)  Cllr Helen Harrison (Nation coordinator of GO), Bill Cash (Tory MP),  Ruth Lea (Economist ) John Boyd (Campaign against Euro-federalism – CAEF   ),  Tom Pursglove (Tory MP) , Kate Hoey (Labour MP), David Davis (Tory MP),  Nigel Farage (Ukip Leader) , George Galloway  (Respect)

The meeting was chaired by Peter Bone (Tory MP)

Report by Robert Henderson

The  meeting was  encouraging for those who hope for a vote to leave the EU.  2,000 odd people crammed themselves into an arena which could probably  only seat  1,500 so that hundreds were left standing. Despite this very few left during the  better part of two and a half hours of speeches.

It was a strong hand of speakers. The various speakers  gave the  audience a good spread of personality: David Davis, who was relaxed, witty and authoritative. Bill Cash unusually animated – for some reason he seemed to be in a rage – Ruth Lea calm, Nigel Farage forthright, Kate Hoey energetic   and  George Galloway booming.

They  pressed hard on the important issues which Cameron had left untouched during his “renegotiation” : national sovereignty, democracy and control of our borders, but several of the speakers  also raised issues which have  long been kept under wraps by the Left, namely, namely, the undercutting of wages by mass immigration from Europe, the pressure on public services , housing, and schools from immigration.

Perhaps the most interesting speech came from John Boyd of the  Campaign against Euro-federalism. Interesting because  CAEF was “ founded in 1992 to address the labour and trade union movement and win that movement back to the anti-EU position it held from the 1960’s until 1988.”   Labour against the EU will seem an oddity to many, especially the young, but until  the  Party threw down its traditional aims  in despair after  being out of office  for so long  after 1979, it was natural  for  Labour to object to the EU as being both undemocratic and a capitalist club. Long before Britain joined  what was then the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1972 the labour movement including the trade unions had been opposed to mass immigration because it undercut wages, embraced protectionism and saw the nationalisation of industries such as the public utilities, railways and coal mines as simple national common sense.   Nor was patriotism a dirty word for Labour then. Men such as Attlee and Ernie Bevan were deep-rooted and natural patriots.

All those ideas and ideals fit quite naturally into the psyche of the working man and woman. It would not be a massive emotional shift for the Labour Party and the unions to come out for Brexit on the grounds that whilst Britain is within the EU immigrants will compete for jobs and reduce wages in Britain (the free movement of labour), vital  industries cannot be preserved (the ban on state aid,  and  the single Market) and   pay and conditions be protected  by law (the free movement of labour and trade agreements made by the EU). In his speech Boyd pointed to the dangers of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Treaty (TTIP) currently being negotiated by the EU with the USA which bids fair to reduce the pay and conditions of workers and upend the NHS.  Boyd was also very firmly against the free movement of labour.

Galloway undoubtedly brings baggage with him, not least over financial matters  – there have been questions over various charities he has run  and recently   a limited company of his has liquidated owing HMRC a reported £100,000 in tax  –  but in a campaign such as this which is centred on a single  issue and one of the   of the greatest moment,  those who would be strange bedfellows in most circumstances  can sleep together without undue difficulty. He  is indubitably a  gifted public  speaker  who will appeal to not just Muslims  (as long as Galloway persuades them to vote OUT  it  doesn’t matter),  but to  working-class people  generally, a huge constituency which has been more or less ignored by mainstream politicians in the past  quarter century.  He might even sway a substantial number of  those in Scotland.

The important thing to fix firmly upon is that what matters here is beautifully simple: it is to win the referendum. How it is won is irrelevant in terms of why people vote to leave the EU.  It does not matter  a jot  if people seek different things from a Britain freed from  the EU.  There are free traders  and laissez faire disciples who see Britain’s departure from the EU as a freeing  of Britain from the bonds of EU regulation and restriction,  there are those who simply want to resurrect British sovereignty by leaving,   there are those on the Left who see the EU  as a capitalist club. More generally, a large majority of the British people want an end to unlimited immigration from the EU.  These varying ends can be fought over after a vote to leave is obtained.

Will GO play a large role in the referendum campaign? Can it persuade the Electoral Commission to designate it as  the lead organisation for the OUT campaign?  It has got three things going for it.

1.It can reasonably claim to have the broadest political range amongst its leading members of the various OUT organisations.

2. Nigel Farage committed Ukip, the oldest and largest anti-EU in Britain, wholeheartedly to Grassroots Out at the meeting.

3. As yet GO has not fallen prey to the type of internecine squabbling and argument which has afflicted the other groups advocating Brexit.

Posted in Immigration, Nationhood | Tagged , | 2 Comments

 SNP XMAS NOVELTIES 2015

 

FORTH ROAD BRIDGE  CONSTRUCTION SET

Have hours of fun building  the bridge then  watch it collapse just when you think it’s finished.

REFERENDUM SNAP!

The game is played with a pack of 52 cards. 51 of the cards are marked  NO REFRENDUM, one marked REFERENDUM.

WARNING  SNP supporters may find the game unbearably frustrating.

NICOLA STURGEON DOLL

Astonishingly lifelike.  Is equipped with the  latest digital technology which allows it to make any number of improbable statements such as “It’s our oil and it will make us rich”;  “Scotland pays more in tax to Westminster than we get back”; “An independent Scotland would be welcomed by the EU”.  Hours of hilarity guaranteed.

Can be linked with the Alec Salmond Jock-in-a-Box (see below)   which attempts to  control the Sturgeon  doll invariably with  hilarious unintended results.

SNP MONOPOLY

The board is similar to an ordinary monopoly board but has squares marked with political and  public service positions such as First Minister and   Head of Police   and buildings such as Holyrood . Instead of houses being built on squares players buy SNP supporters.

All players represent   the SNP.  Players have to compete  to take as many squares as they can.   The winner   is the player who controls most of the political and public service positions  and the infrastructure of Scotland by the time the game ends.

Every time a player passes GO they collect £200 of English taxpayers’ money.

SNP BBC SCOTLAND SET

Design your own SNP approved independent Scotland channel.

Put together a schedule full of classic Scots  favourites such as The White Heather Club and The Stanley Baxter show  and even more classic recordings  of Harry Lauder and Will Fyfe performing, together with  educational programmes such as Why you should vote SNP forever, The Labour Party is fascist and Tories are the new Nazis.

See what the future for broadcasting in an independent Scotland could be.

JUNIOR CYBERNAT SET

Consists of a giant Saltire duvet cover and an instruction manual  with phrases for every   occasion when anti-SNP statements are made.   Players can have unlimited fun shouting or posting “Tory scum”, “Red Tories”, “Nazis”, “Traitors”  at anyone who  does not uncritically support SNP policies.

MAGIC MONEY TREE

There is no end of money which can be got from the magic money tree. The money is monopoly cash,  but you can build everything from Castles in the Air to an Independent Scotland with it.   A tremendous fantasy toy which will be irresistible to SNP supporters.

GAS  AND OIL SWEEPSTAKE

Players write down their estimate of the tax derived from the Oil and Gas on the 1st of January and the person closest to the actual figure on the 31st December wins.

Tip to players: the lower you bet the more likely you are to win

CEARANCE STOCK FROM 2014

JOCK-IN-A-BOX

Alec Salmond figure  pops up just as reliably as it did in previous years  with an uncannily lifelike whine.

HURRY! HURRY! HURRY! WHILE STOCKS LAST

Posted in Devolution, Nationhood | Tagged , , | 4 Comments