Kent will undoubtedly be at the forefront of Brexit – most visibly if Kent’s roads are turned into impromptu lorry-parks, but also the impact on businesses, fruit-farming, social care and the NHS.
What will happen to Operation Stack if Britain leaves both the Tax and Customs Union?
Whatever one’s views of Brexit are, it is undeniable that a reintroduction of customs and tax checks will result in much longer delays at the ports, and it is hard to see how this could be managed without impact on the roads of Kent.
The port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel see an average of at least 10,000 trucks per day, and the people of Kent are well aware of what can happen when this flow is interrupted by adverse weather or striking dock workers: The lack of geographical space in Dover and Ashford means that lorries have nowhere to park, and with such a volume of trucks there simply is no feasible alternative to turning large sections of the M2 and M20 motorways into temporary parking lots.
But how far will it go? Fears that Operation Stack could extend up the M20 as far as the M25 junctions at Swanley or Sevenoaks may seem far fetched, but on closer analysis they are not in the realm of the impossible.
As most recently seen during the strike by French dockyard workers in the summer of 2015, Operation Stack can extend over 30 miles as far as Maidstone, and there is little reason to think this marks the ultimate limit of how long it could become.
While it probably is extremely unlikely that it would extend as much as an extra 20 miles up the M20 to reach Swanley, it is just as unlikely that there would be no impact at all. A more realistic estimate would probably sit somewhere between these figures – taking us a further 5 miles up to Leybourne, or 10 miles as far as the M26 Junction at Wrotham.
Increased Frequency as the bigger Problem
While these are estimates based on what are currently extreme scenarios, there is another dimension to this debate that is far more important – rather than looking at how long the queues for Operation Stack could become, we should asking how often we will have to deal with it.
The answer to this is – much more often. The increasing frequency of Operation Stack is much more assured than its increasing length in distance.
A reintroduction of customs at the ports will cause delays no matter what the weather, so what are now seeing as extreme scenarios will become regular occurrences in future. The time it takes to inspect each vehicle being loaded onto a ferry or the train is simply too long to avoid doing so without causing long queues at customs controls. It is a problem that has long been recognised – and was long resolved – by the creation of the EU Customs Union.
Mandate creep is not a word that is used often. Like it’s sibling, Mission Creep, it means moving the goals of an endeavour beyond its original purpose, or “mission” in military terminology – and “mandate” in politics.
In politics, mandate creep happens when people in positions claim that they have the authority to do things they really don’t, and the behaviour of the May administration since the referendum on Exiting the European Union regrettably is perfect example of this. The reasons for this are as follows:
- There is absolutely no consensus as to what “Brexit” really means to the people – and politicians are now using this fact to pursue their own agendas.
- The notion that the majority of voters support a Hard Brexit as is currently being advocated by the May administration has no basis in terms of a mandate derived from the Referendum. The campaign for “LEAVE” had 4 options on the UK’s future relationship with the EU, of which only one involved leaving the EU and single market without any new deal at all – an option which was notably derided as insane by most leading LEAVE campaigners. This means that even by the most optimistic estimates, not even half of the LEAVE voters supported the idea of a Hard Brexit. Given that less than 38% of the electorate supported the LEAVE vote overall, this places support for a Hard Brexit at barely 15%.
- For some LEAVE voters, the referendum was clearly little more than a protest vote against the Conservative government, and Camerons’s resignation was met by almost unanimous cheer among leave voters. Yet the conservative party itself has clung on to power, and now claims to have a mandate of speaking for the majority, and a minority within the Conservative Party is now defining Brexit on its own terms that often go against the expressed wishes of many leavers. For example, not all leave voters agree with the notion that ties to Europe should be replaced by closer ties to the USA, let alone authoritarian regimes in the Middle East – or anywhere else. Moreover, millions of health-conscious Brexiteers would object to a trade deal with the USA that requires a lowering of environmental and food safety standards to allow GMO, hormone- and chemically-treated foods onto the UK market, and even the staunchest anti-EU voices among British farmers, would have to conc that the contamination of our domestic food chain would result in an instant block of exports to the EU.
The lack of consensus over what Brexit really means is actually greatest among LEAVE voters. This is expressed in very different visions of Brexit that are totally incompatible with one another. They range from Anarcho-capitalist radicals to Far Right Nationalist and Far Left Utopianist, all of whom are now making competing claims for the mandate to define Brexit according to their extreme positions. The notion that Brexit should mean a choice between such extreme views has no mandate at all, since the silent majority of leave voters clearly a more moderate approach, and while the overall majority of voters prefer the status quo.
To sum up, any attempt to define a mandate for “Brexit” by the incumbent conservative government can only represent one vision of Brexit, and thus never have the full backing – and mandate from ALL leave voters.
In fact, there can be no consensus – and thus no true mandate – until the people are given a vote on the type of Brexit they want – either directly via a new referendum – or indirectly via new elections.
For more info or to show your support for this, please see this petition.
The Dutch Elections for the Second Chamber (House of Commons) on 15th March 2017 will be an important indicator of the political mood in mainland Europe.
The current leader, Mark Rutte, VVD is under siege because Dutch Democracy is not working and because his party is haemorrhaging members: A referendum in 2005 (the first in 200 years) rejected the EU constitution with a clear majority, but the government ratified it anyway. A public petition leading to another referendum in 2015 overwhelmingly rejected the EU association agreement with Ukraine. It was ignored because it had already been signed. The Dutch Legal System is also not working: In 2010 the authorities tried to prosecuted Gert Wilders PVV for Islamophobia but the case was thrown out when the judges tried tampering with witnesses. More recently they tried prosecuting him for anti-Moroccan Immigration; the prosecution was successful, but no sentence was ever handed down. Instead, the country was left with a case law forbidding the promotion of anti-immigration policies.
The Netherlands has 20 electoral districts with 31 parties fielding candidates for 150 seats. Voters have one vote, and the most popular candidates win; almost certainly leading to a coalition government. As there are several seats per constituency, there is little sense of being represented in the Second Chamber – the real sense of representation is with Local Counsellors (or Ministers) who do an exceeding good job with Local Governance. The main parties in 2012 order are as follows:-
VVD (Liberal Democrat, a self-styled Liberal Party) fielding 80 candidates, bookie’s odds 3/1. The issues:-
- Security and Income
- Care and Health
- Safety and Freedom
- Immigration and Integration
- The future…
PvdA (Labour, a self-styled Social Democrat Party) fielding 75 candidates, bookie’s odds 50/1. The issues:-
- The right to a decent life
- Solidarity and togetherness
- Local governance
- Selective and sustainable growth
- A versatile and democratic constitution
- Freedom and rights
- Community empowerment
PVV (Liberal Party) fielding 50 candidates, bookie’s odds 2/9. The issues:-
- Direct democracy
- Abolish private healthcare
- Lower rents
- Cap state pension age at 65 and index link existing pensions
- No more subsidies for research, windfarms, art, innovation, media, etc.
- Reverse cuts in homecare, care for the aged; increase healthcare workers
- Robust extra spending on Police and Defence
- Lower income taxation
- Halve vehicle tax
SP (Socialist Party, former Communist Party) fielding 25 candidates. The issues:-
- Social inclusion, e.g. reducing student debt.
- Tackling social inequality, especially wealth, but also social mobility and care inequality.
- A country of cooperation, not competition. Reducing social differences and allowing every opinion to count.
CDA (Christian Democrats, formed from merging the anti-Revolutionaries, Historic Christian Democrats and the Catholic Peoples Parties) fielding 50 candidates, bookie’s odds 25/1. The issues:-
- Traditional values
- A strong society
- Family values
- Mutual support
D66 (1966 Democrats, a Social Liberal Party) fielding 50 candidates. “Opportunites for everyone” The Issues:-
- Fight divisions to the core
- Clean Economy: Netherlands leads the way
- A fair chance to work for all
- Care with and for each other
- A strong Netherlands in a strong Europe
- A robust rule of law
- Public finance: investment, balanced budget
CU (Christian Union, a Christian Party formed from merging the Reformed Political League and the Reformed Political Federation) fielding 50 candidates. The issues:-
Driven by God’s love and Christ’s kingship, the Christian Union is committed to society and the governance of our country. It recognizes that government is given by God and in His service able to do justice and freedom and protect peace worldwide. The Christian Union bases its political principles in the Bible, God’s inspired and authoritative Word. Its members unite from the Christian faith, as concisely expressed in the Nicene Creed. – The CU is generally supportive of the EU
GL (Green Left, formed from a fusion of Catholic Radicals, Pacifists, Communists & Evangelists) fielding 40 candidates. The issues:-
- Green investing
- New leveling (e.g. by raising dividend tax, wealth tax & inheritance tax; and reducing income disparities)
- Promising education
- Modern solidarity
- A unified society
- A pleasant life
- A just world
SGP (Politically Reformed Party, of orthodox Protestant Calvinists) fielding 30 candidates. The issues:-
- For a Christian Netherlands
- For the family
- For each other
- For Sunday rest
- For safety
- For responsible freedom
- For a sustainable environment
- For Israel
- For a healthy economy
PvdD (Animal Rights) fielding 50 candidates. They have a statement on nearly every possible issues; the main headings being:-
- Animal husbandry, agriculture and food
- Nature, biodiversity and wildlife
- Climate, energy and environment
- Fish, marine ecosystems and fisheries
- Pets, stray animals and animal trade
- Animal experiments and biotechnology
- Animals for entertainment and fashion
- Society and ethics
- International (e.g. on EU migration, they’re anti-discrimination, but pro immigration control)
- Economy and work
- Social care
- Education, culture and media
- Security, law and privacy
- Housing & Planning
50PLUS (a Party for the over 50’s) fielding 40 candidates. No ideological views; but:-
- The retirement age back to 65 years.
- Retirement ceiling is stopped. maintaining the current pension system. No discounts of pensions or index.
- Stop cuts in care for the elderly: hands off of homecare. More recognition and money for home-helpers.
- Employment Offensive-45s also tax. Relieve employers in hiring seniors. Abolishing extra days off for seniors, so they are extra expensive.
- Purchasing power of the elderly, who paid more during years of tax increases and did not benefit from tax reductions, restores and maintains the pace with future employment.
- Abolition of inheritance tax for children, starting at € 250 000,
- Introduction of a health insurance in health care. End to the market. Reducing power and cost of health insurance. reduce excess to a maximum of € 200,
- A toilet In all trains.
- Economical travel by public transport elderly outside rush. On all platforms, bus and tram seating for the elderly and disabled.
- Police Departments and local police officers are reflected in all areas.
- 50PLUS is critical in favour of joining the EU and the euro, but does not want us to pay for mismanagement and deficit countries.
- Strict but fair policy on refugees. Netherlands provides for real emergencies proportionally contribute. Economic refugees are sent back. better monitor borders.
- The Dutch passport shall be provided to newcomers after a residence period of ten years. Requirements: a municipal ‘certificate of good conduct, “complete mastery of the Dutch language and to lay down a declaration of allegiance to the Dutch Constitution.
- Age discrimination should be deleted out of all laws and regulations, national and local.
- Municipal older coaches help voluntarily seniors with internet among others, language, administration.
As in all Politics, the issues are mainly local (but sometimes with a global outreach or impact). No one has so far mentioned reducing bureaucracy or red-tape; in the Netherlands, bureaucracy is an industry in itself. A coalition of smaller parties (CU, D66, 50PLUS) have spoken out in favour of the EU and the Euro; but a greater number have shown a concern for border control, immigration and integration. Only Gert Wilders’ PVV has been stridently anti-EU. He will however have difficulty convincing the voters; firstly because the Netherlands has a substantial and well integrated Muslim population who are not going to take kindly to his anti-Islam rhetoric; and secondly because when the more sensible Dutch voter asks how he is going to pay for his policies, I don’t think he will have adequate answers. Even if he does end up the largest party in government, he will not be able to govern because he will have to form a coalition; and none of the other parties are prepared to work with him. A more likely outcome is a much reduced majority for the VVD and a much more complicated and unsustainable coalition.
However, the Nigger in the Woodpile is the FVD (Forum for Democracy), this is a party born out of a plebiscite and fielding 30 candidates. It has never held office before, but it has some of the biggest names in the Military, Business and Academia representing it. This is the only party that is prepared to work with Gert Wilders’ PVV. It’s main issues are:-
- Destroying the grip of the political elite.
- Direct democracy
- Directly elected Minister-president
- Sovereignty (essential referenda on constitutional issues)
- Referendum to leave the EU
- Radical reform of Government, the Tax System and Pension Investment (Inward).
- A Danish model to support SME’s; and support Director/Shareholders and Freelancers.
- Radical reform of the Tax System.
- Internet Privacy
- Education (along the Finish model).
- Culture – stop subsidy discrimination.
- Ensured neutrality of the civil service.
- Security & Justice – bring back border controls.
- Restrictive immigration policy (American Green-card model)
- Increase investment in defence, improve reserves and support defence start-ups.
- Constructive working with Russia. No more regime change in the Middle East.
- Healthcare. Reduce red-tape, reduce influence of private insurers.
- Employment safety-net, work should always pay, stop tax relief for immigrants.
- Pensions under national supervision. Tax incentives for generation solidarity.
- Focus on sustainable growth. Investing in energy. Encourage the shared economy.
- Referenda on CETA and TTIP. Support for the agricultural sector, addressing animal cruelty.
Whatever the outcome, the conversation is definitely shifting to the same concerns that we have: finance, sovereignty, security, immigration & integration. Two parties (PVV & FVD) believe these can only be solved by leaving the EU; but the rest, I think, realize there is a better chance of solving these problems by working within the EU – this will make the next EU elections very interesting indeed. The PVV & FVD may well be able to force a referendum, in exchange for getting some other policies through. (But, leaving the EU is not top of either of their agendas.) And the government could again ignore any referendum results – so once again, leading to instability. – To see the latest comments on Twitter, use the #nexit hash-tag.