Lord Palmerston sums up all that Brexit is about

Lord Palmerston:  “I hold with respect to alliances, that England is a Power sufficiently strong, sufficiently powerful, to steer her own course, and not to tie herself as an unnecessary appendage to the policy of any other Government. I hold that the real policy of England—apart from questions which involve her own particular interests, political or commercial—is to be the champion of justice and right; pursuing that course with moderation and prudence, not becoming the Quixote of the world, but giving the weight of her moral sanction and support wherever she thinks that justice is, and wherever she thinks that wrong has been done…I say that it is a narrow policy to suppose that this country or that is to be marked out as the eternal ally or the perpetual enemy of England. We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow… And if I might be allowed to express in one sentence the principle which I think ought to guide an English Minister, I would adopt the expression of Canning, and say that with every British Minister the interests of England ought to be the shibboleth of his policy.”

  • Speech to the House of Commons (1 March 1848).
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Don’t be fooled: EU enthusiast Theresa May is intent on subverting Brexit

Robert Henderson

In office for less than 48 hours,  Theresa May   showed her true colours and intentions for Brexit when she made the remarkable promise that Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty will not be activated until there is agreement between Westminster and the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.   This has the effect of delaying  the UK’s departure indefinitely. In a separate statement  SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon  has supported this idea.  May has also  visited Wales and said she wanted the Welsh government to be “’involved and engaged’ in Brexit negotiations.”

The fact that May’s first act after choosing a cabinet was to go running off to Scotland  to meet the  SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon before embracing  the patently absurd idea that both Scotland’s  wishes to remain in the EU and the majority UK wish to leave  the EU  could be reconciled shows this was planned before she became PM . Her visit to Wales, doubtless to be followed by one to Northern Ireland, reinforced the suspicion, if it needed reinforcing, that she is intent on sabotaging Brexit.

There is plenty of other  evidence of May’s duplicitous  intentions . At her first cabinet meeting she  said “we will not allow the country to be defined by Brexit”.  This is nonsensical if May is committed to Brexit.  Regaining sovereignty is what Brexit is about and sovereignty defines what a country is.

What is May’s motivation for this behaviour? Like a majority of Tory MPs  she does not want to leave the EU and is intent on finding a way of subverting  Brexit.  She can do this in two ways:

(1) May will  use the excuse of accommodating  the wishes of Scotland and, Wales and NI to   delay the UK’s exit as long as possible in the hope that  unforeseen events, for example,    the UK economy goes into  prolonged recession,   will  give her an excuse to hold another  referendum.

(2) May will agree terms with the EU which stitch us back into the EU with things such as free movement and she will justify  such an agreement  on the grounds that Scotland and NI and possibly Wales will not agree to anything less.

All of this would go against what the British voted for on 23rd June.  You might say neither this government nor Parliament  would tolerate such a rejection of popular will.  The problem is that despite the clear majority to leave  most MPs, including Tory MP s,  wish to remain inside the EU and two thirds of May’s cabinet are remainers.  The House of Lords is also solidly for remaining in the EU.  In principle Parliament could accept whatever deal is reached with the EU. If  it is several years down the line, as it almost certainly will be if Article 50 is activated,  this could mean that the voters will have been exhausted and confused by the whole process and fail to protest  effectively enough to prevent the stitch up happening.

There is also the possibility that May could distract or  “buy” the acquiescence of Tory Brexiteers  to a sell-out of the Brexit vote by giving them some red meat such as increasing defence spending and the permitting of new grammar schools.

But even if the British voter is outraged by such a betrayal  what exactly could they do to stop it happening?  At the next general  they could vote against any MP who voted to accept what might be called a Quisling agreement.  But who exactly  could they vote for? Ukip is the obvious party and there is now  a real opportunity for it to gain a serious Commons presence. But it is unlikely to form a government in the near future because history shows it takes a great deal to shift voters en masse to a new party and even in the event of Ukip potentially  holding the balance of power in a hung parliament,   if a coalition of Labour and the Tories was formed  UKip  would be left out on a limb.

It is true that May has appointed three leading Breiteers   to posts which will either directly or indirectly impinge on the Brexit negotiations. David Davis (Minister for Brexit) ,  Boris Johnson (Foreign Secretary), and  Liam Fox  (Minister for Trade Deals) to her cabinet .   Davis and Fox are long term Brexiters; Johnson is a Johnny come lately Brexiteer whose steadfastness on the issue is highly questionable.     But whatever they wish to do  these three will  probably be no  more than window dressing.

May has given Johnson a deputy  Alan Duncan who is a remainer and a close associate of May and has been known to refer to Johnson as ‘Silvio Borisconi’ .  Fox cannot agree any trade deals until the UK has left the EU and  David Davis is already at odds with May over her promise that Article 50 will not be activated until the devolved home countries have agreed to the terms of the deal agreed with the EU.

David Davis wants article 50  to be activated by the end of the year  while May has left the date uncertain because of her promise to Scotland, Wales and Norther Ireland to agree what is to be sought from the EU before entering negotiations . This puts her directly at odds with Davis and probably Liam Fox and Johnson. There is also dissention in cabinet over when Article 50 will be activated.

Another sign  of May’s insincerity can be  found in her appointment of  Amber Rudd as home secretary. Immigration is issue which won matters most to the public. It is what won the election for the leave side. Yet May’s Home Secretary is soft on immigration . In addition, Rudd and Boris Johnson have suggested  that there should be no net immigration target since it cannot be met. Unless Brexit permits full sovereign control of our borders it will not be Brexit as the voters understood it.

With all this going against a clean and honest Brexit it is not too difficult to imagine Davis resigning or  being sacked long before the negotiations with the EU are concluded. Fox could follow him out. Johnson is such a slippery individual anything is possible including a Pauline conversion to EU membership.  It is possible that the negotiations could end up in the hands of remainers.

I am against using Article 50 because it allows the EU to control matters and leaves  the UK as an EU member for at least two years after  the Article is activated, but  Davis,   Johnson, and  Fox are all signed up to its use so at present  it seems   unlikely that an alternative  way of leaving  will be used.  However, it is possible that could change once the public realises that for several years the UK would not be able to control EU immigration and that EU directives including new ones have to be followed.  The only thing which can be said for Article 50 is that it in theory means there is no going back. Once activated the UK is irrevocably on the way out. Of course the EU has a record of breaking laws when it suits them it is not out of the question that  a combination of EU power brokers and Europhile MPs could simply cancel the UK activation of Article 50 and leave the UK in the EU.

There are two possible alternative means of leaving the EU .  Clause 62 of  the Vienna Convention on Treaties  might allow a much quicker departure (3 months) on the grounds of a fundamental and unforeseeable change of circumstances  but only if all the member states of the EU agree to it . I suspect that would end  either in denying the UK to depart because on the grounds of such a change of circumstances  or embroiling the UK in some form of long-winded arbitration.

The other option would be for  Parliament to  do what long term campaigner for the UK to leave the EU Lord Stoddart has proposed, namely, repeal of the 1972 European Communities Act  and amendments to start the ball rolling. I would support this  followed by legislation to  both assert the Sovereignty of Parliament (not strictly needed but a belt and braces approach is just as well bearing in mind our Europhile judges) and  give a certain legal status to existing EU inspired UK law which can then be kept, amended or repealed as Parliament decides.

The future is more than ordinarily uncertain but one thing is certain. We  know  May’s  “Brexit means Brexit” is in all probability  a  bouncing political cheque which she cynically issued knowing it would not be honoured.












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After the EU referendum

The battle has been won but not the war

Robert Henderson

The Europhiles threw a great deal at the EU referendum campaign.  There was the shameless   use of government resources especially those of the Treasury to propagandise for the Remain side. The governor of the Bank of England  enthusiastically supported the remain side.  EU panjandrums directed  dire threats  of what the EU would do to  Britain. A gigantic cast of the “great and the good” from finance, trade, industry, the media and politics (drawn from both Britain and abroad ) were daily paraded in front of the public like ancient  oracles forecasting  unalloyed disaster if Britain voted to leave the EU.  Leading Tories in the Remain camp cast aspersions on the character of those supporting Leave –  David Cameron even claimed that voting leave was immoral. Accusations of racism  were routinely levelled  against any leave supporter with a public voice  who addressed  the subject of immigration and the leave voters were labelled as xenophobes, bigots and racists.   Most contemptibly when the Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered   Remain supporters, including  MPs, attempted by implication or direct accusation to link the killing with the Leave side’s position on immigration.  So desperate were  the government  and Remain politicians generally  to ensure a vote to remain  that when the government web site which allowed people to register for a vote crashed two hours before the deadline  for registering,  Parliament did not hesitate to extend the deadline the next day  (by 24 hours not two) in the belief that it would mean many more young voters (who generally favoured remaining in the EU) would vote.

It says much for the strength of character of  the British that they refused to be cowed by this onslaught of propaganda and threats.  The Remain camp started with Project Lie, moved to Project Fear and ended with Project Slander as their accusations of racism became ever more shrill as polling day approached.  None of it worked.  Their  prophecies of doom were so frequent and so overblown that their hysterical warnings  ended up looking like caricatures produced by the Leave  side .  The only thing which stopped the Leave campaign’s momentum was the death of Jo Cox which stopped campaigning for three days just as the polls were consistently  showing increasing support for Leave.  This break in momentum probably cost Leave several percentage points in the final poll as for a few days the polls swung back towards Remain.

There was also a strong tendency for the Remainers  to patronise the leavers by implying or saying directly that only a bigoted blockhead who did not know better could vote to leave.   Nowhere was this mentality  shown  more strongly than over the subject of immigration.  The Remainers’  favoured tactics were simply to ignore the issue or, if forced to address it, to chant the mantras such as  “Immigrants have brought so much to our country” or  “Immigrants do the jobs which Britons won’t do”  or “The shortage of housing, school places and GPs  etc  is not down to immigration but the failure of government to provide the money to build more houses, schools  and GPs etc”.  As immigration was the issue  which troubled voters most  and especially troubled the white working class,  this was madness on the part of the Remain campaign. Clearly nothing has been learnt by the politically correct from Gordon Brown’s abuse of a working class  English pensioner Gillian Duffy  during the 2010  General Election when she complained  about the effects of mass immigration and Brown  was caught describing her as a bigot.

But it was not only the Remainers who wanted to  ignore or explain away the problems mass immigration brings. Many on the Leave side were just as squeamish when it came to immigration.  If it had not been for Nigel Farage having the courage to keep banging the immigration drum in all probability the referendum would have been lost.  The question of regaining sovereignty was a very strong and positive message, but on its own it is doubtful if it would have gained sufficient traction to lead to a win. What made it really  potent was when it was allied to controlling our own borders and stemming immigration.   The least politically sophisticated person could readily understand the message.

The battle but not the war is won

Gratifying as the referendum result is,  it was only  the first battle in the war to recover Britain’s sovereignty.

As things stand we are still subject to EU law until either we leave without an  agreement with the EU or fight our way through the provisions of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, something which would almost certainly take two years from its activation and which could be extended indefinitely in principle with the agreement of the European Parliament.  It is even conceivable that new members could be enrolled before Britain’s departure who would then have a say in what the terms for Britain would be. That is just one of the drawbacks to using Article 50. There are others which mean that  Article 50 is a poisoned chalice and should be avoided.   Let me quote it in full as it is short:

  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.

Before I get to the practical difficulties of using Article 50 let me stamp on an idea floating within the disgruntled Europhile camp  that Britain could remain in the EU if no agreement was reached on the terms of leaving. This is not so.  Paragraph 3 of the Article runs” 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.”  If there is no agreement and no extension of the negotiating time, Britain would simply leave and EU laws would cease to have effect.

The   drawbacks to using Article 50 are extensive.  To begin with it allows the EU to set the agenda and the pace of the negotiations. Until an agreement is reached or the leaving state simply leaves after two years of fruitless negotiation, Britain would  remain subject to   EU law. This  would mean, amongst other things, that Britain would have to continue to pay the £8  billion odd   to the EU that  they keep and the £6 bn odd  which the EU takes from us and then returns it to Britain with instructions  on how it is to be spent, Britain could not negotiate any treaties with countries outside of the EU and  British businesses would have to continue to implement EU imposed standards in areas such  as the  workplace  for example, the   hours worked. It would logically also mean that Britain was subject to any new EU laws passed during the negotiating period, for example, the EU might push through a transaction tax which would be utterly against Britain’s wishes.  Most importantly Britain would have to continue accept  migrants from the rest of the EU and probably other territories which  have free movement with the EU such as Norway or Switzerland .  Moreover,  the idea that Britain  would be leaving the EU  after two years  could provoke a massive upsurge in EU migration to these shores.

Europhile MPs

The other problem is the nature of Britain’s MPs. Most are Europhiles, as are a majority of the House of Lords. In principle the result of the referendum could be ignored – it is merely advisory not legally binding – by the Europhile majority in Parliament. That should  be politically impossible but there would be ample opportunity for the Europhiles to subvert the wishes of the British public more stealthily  by extending the length of time for  negotiation or by making agreements with the EU which would  stitch Britain back into the EU, for example, making immigration from the EU very easy.

If an agreement  which firmly attaches Britain to the EU once again is concluded one of two things could happen: either Parliament could accept in on a vote or a further referendum be held on the terms of the agreement with all the bullying associated with the EU when the public of a member makes the “wrong” choice the first time around.  The first would be overtly undemocratic and the second covertly undemocratic.

An alternative to an agreement between British politicians and EU politicians would be for  a major  party to campaign at a general election  for Britain to  withdraw from the leaving process and by doing so to remain in the EU. Whether  such a cancellation of Britain’s withdrawal would be legal is debatable, especially if Article 50 is activated because there is no procedure in the Article  for cancelling the article’s activation.  However, legal or not, the rest of the EU might be willing to accept the cancellation because this is really  about politics not law.

None of this is fanciful because there have already been suggestions from MPs, the most prominent being David Lammy of Labour , an ex-cabinet minister, has suggested that the Commons refuse to accept the result of the referendum   and Tim Farron, the leader of the LibDems has committed his party to standing on a platform to get Britain back into the EU.  There is also a petition on the government web site which is already in the millions demanding that the referendum result be deemed invalid (there is some doubt over the authenticity of large numbers of the signatures).

The next general election.

The question of when the next General Election is to be held looms over the post-referendum political world.    It could be soon, although because of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act two thirds of the House of Commons would have to pass a motion permitting an election less than five years after the last General Election. As this Tory government has a working  majority of only sixteen such a motion would need  to be supported by Labour. Whether that would suit Labour at present is extremely  dubious because the present chaos within the Party would almost certainly lose them many seats. But the other parties, including the Tories,  would probably  have many MPs against an early general election because there is a good chance that they could be punished by the voters either because they were for or against being  a member in the EU.  There are also many MPs with small majorities who would not welcome an election  because an MP with a small majority is always vulnerable to defeat. With nearly 4 years of this Parliament to run such MPs might well vote against an early election.  More generally, having run a general election campaign little more than a year ago parties may be short of money to run another.

If  there was sufficient support for an early election there would be  a halfway plausible  reason for having one. As  Cameron has resigned and a new Tory PM  is to be appointed by the Autumn,   a new election could represented as giving the new Tory regime electoral legitimacy.   But   it would be a rather weak argument because there is no  recent precedent for  governments calling a general election when prime ministers  are changed during the course of a Parliament. It did not happen when Gordon Brown took over from Blair, Major  succeeded  Thatcher  or when  Callaghan replaced Wilson. It would also be wholly exceptional for a general election to be called  so early in a Parliament (this one runs until 2020) for the purpose of validating a new PM.   Alternatively, a new General Election might be called because if defections, resignations or death   robbed the   Tory Party of a majority at some time in this Parliament..

But if an early election is not  called it is not inconceivable that the negotiation period could stretch deep into this Parliament or even past the 2020 date prescribed by the Fixed Term Parliaments  Act.  Implausible? Well, the first two years are almost certainly  accounted for if Article 50 is activated and it would not be that difficult to envisage Europhile British politicians colluding with EU politicians to string the matter out in the hope that time would change the political atmosphere in Britain sufficiently  to allow another referendum on whether Britain should leave the EU to be held and won by the Europhile side.

Other possibilities  would be  the election of a government comprised of one or more parties which  stood on a platform of  accepting  a  draft agreement  on offer from the EU  which would effectively  re-make Britain a member of the EU or of Britain withdrawing its application to leave  or  Britain re-applying to join the EU after leaving  it.

Because parties would have campaigned at an election for such policies any of these options could be implemented without a referendum.

What should happen?

Britain should not activate Article 50. Instead the  1972 Communities Act (the Act which gave legal force to  Britain’s membership of what became the EU)  should be repealed .  That would make the British Parliament sovereign again. Just to make sure there is no legal confusion  it would probably be advisable to enact a British sovereignty act to ensure that British judges cannot attempt to subvert Parliament’s intentions.  If  the Europhile majority in Commons refused to do this there would be a most serious constitutional crisis, the sort of crisis over which civil wars  are fought.  I doubt whether the Commons would risk that.  At  best such behaviour might well fracture parties and would sour the relationship between the electors and politicians for a long time.

The House of Lords is more problematical. They could  delay any legislation for around two years before the Parliament Act could  be used to force the legislation through. That would be a very dangerous path to go down for the Lords because it would probably result in their abolition. However, many peers might consider that a price worth paying and quite a few  both inside and outside of the Lords might see it as a solution to the anomaly of an unelected chamber  within the British political system.

Having repealed the 1972 Act and put any other necessary legislation  on the Statute Book, Britain would then be in the position of any other country outside the EU. They would negotiate with the EU on an equal basis without the EU controlling the agenda.  If the EU refuses to play ball Britain should simply trade under the WTO rules and conclude trade treaties as and when they are available and  advantageous to Britain.   Would the EU be obstructive?  I doubt it because  (1)  they have a massive trade surplus with the  Britain, (2) Britain is a partner in many  a pan-Europe enterprise ( for example, Airbus,  the European Space Agency) ,  (3) Britain is a very useful partner to have on the world stage because of her senior position in many international  bodies  (permanent member of the security council,  important member of the IMF, World Bank, Nato, G7, G20), (4) there are many  more  people from the other EU states in Britain  than there are Britons in the other EU countries and (5) the Republic of Ireland would be ruined if any serious protectionist measures aimed at Britain were enacted by the EU.  Most WTO tariffs  are low but where they are more substantial such as those attached to cars (around 10%) the odds are that the EU would rapidly make adjustments to those WTO tariffs  because they export so many cars to the UK.  The idea that nothing can be done quickly in terms of deciding the level of tariffs or their absence is obvious nonsense if  both sides want an agreement.

Britain’s negotiators, whether politicians or public servants, must be willing to play hardball. What is all too often not mentioned when tariffs being imposed by the EU  are discussed is that  Britain can impose reciprocal tariffs which would (1) bring in substantial amounts of tax and (2)  result in more British production going to the domestic British market.  The argument that Britain’s export  trade to the EU represent s  a much larger part of the British GDP than the other  EU states’ exports to the UK and consequently the EU would  not be damaged as much as the UK through a tariff war  does not hold water . This is because British exports to the EU are not spread uniformly throughout  the EU or  throughout individual members states’ economies.  Hence, the impact of  putting up barriers  to British exports would be very damaging to particular industries and areas  of EU member states. Think of the blow it would send to the German motor industry.

The repealing of the 1972 Act and what flows from it would have the great advantage of simplicity and above all speed.  Delay is the enemy of   those who want the wishes of the British people as expressed in the referendum to be honoured and the servant of those who wish to prevent Britain truly leaving the EU.  The longer the delay the more opportunity for fudge  and manipulation  by those with power.   Do not be misled by  politicians like Boris Johnson who led the Leave campaign and who will almost certainly  be at or near  the head of the government . Their embracing of the  Leave campaign  does not mean they will deal honestly with the British who voted to leave because they thought  that Britain would become truly sovereign again and above all be able  to control immigration.

Already there have been  British politicians who supported leaving the EU  who are saying that immigration will not be massively changed. For example,  Daniel Hannon a Conservative MEP and prominent Leave campaigner   told presenter Evan Davis on the BBC’s Newsnight programme: “Frankly, if people watching think that they have voted and there is now going to be zero immigration from the EU, they are going to be disappointed.” and admitted that  the price for remaining in a common market with the EU would be free movement of labour.  Boris Johnson himself has written a piece in the Telegraph saying that access to the single market would be available to the  UK after Brexit. That implies he would accept free movement of Labour for it is doubtful that EU would grant free access without mobility of Labour.

It is also noteworthy that the  line on immigration most pushed by Leave campaigners during the referendum campaign was not that immigration would be reduced dramatically  per se, but that an Australian-style points system would be introduced. If such a system was used  without a cap on numbers coming each year,   immigration could soar. Imagine that 100,000 foreign  nurses  a year meet the criteria for nurses in the UK  and want to come to Britain,  a points-system without restrictions on numbers would potentially allow all  100,000 to come in.

One thing is certain amongst the current political upheaval in Britain, the Europhiles (who can come in Eurosceptic clothing)  will not lie down and accept the verdict of the referendum.  Those who want Britain to be an a sovereign state again must be ever vigilant as to what is being done by politicians both  here in Britain and abroad. There is a real danger of the Leave victory being stolen from us.


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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.


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:
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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