We are not only the 48%

Many a turning point in history has been decided by a margin smaller than 48%. For instance, the American referendum to use German as their official language (instead of English) was defeated by a narrower margin; and the French referendum to keep the Franc (instead of adopt the Euro) was defeated by a narrower margin. But:- Continue reading “We are not only the 48%”

Chlorinated chicken and more….

Don’t forget, imports from the USA could also mean:-

  • Beef washed in ammonia (american pink slime)
  • Genetically modified food
  • Meat products laced with antibiotics
  • Swine flu (from battery pigs)
  • Flawed drugs testing (FDA)
  • Contaminated blood & blood products
  • Fake Whisky (Jack Daniels could wipe-out our Scottish industry)
  • Fake French Wines from California, labelled “produit de E-U
  • Aggressive marketing (MLM – Pyramid selling – Ponzi schemes)
  • Litigation culture
  • High CO2 emission manufactured goods (outside Paris accord)
  • 3-D printed guns that can kill, but cannot be detected
  • Erosion of personal privacy

And Sajjad Karim has a good blog here of how negotiations with Donald Trump are likely to go: Hey Brexiteers – watch out Liam Fox! – The European public (especially UK citizens) did not want TTIP; we’re unlikely to change our mind now.

Seems the Tories now agree: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4806180/Tories-warn-David-Davies-avoid-trade-deals-US.html

Brexit could be good for little fishes

Strolling along the quiet fishing quay at Scheveningen, I met an old fisherman who said he hoped Brexit would not happen because then they would not be able to fish in English waters. – He himself had already given up fishing and become a lorry driver instead. The Scheveningen commercial fishing fleet consists of about 8 substantial ships (one of them sailing under a German flag), each of which I measured out as typically 70 to 90 meters long. Only a few weeks before they had taken part in a protest at sea against other fleets who had been catching under-size fish. Their slogan: “give little fishes a second chance”

The North Sea is divided according to the 12 Mile coastal zone which is protected by the London Fisheries Convention of 1964 and out of which all foreign fishermen are excluded unless given a special license (very few have this license). Then it is divided by the mid-way line in lieu of the 200 Mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) which is protected by the United Nations. The continental half of the North Sea is shared by Norway, Denmark, Germany, Holland, Belgium, and France. (https://www.nrc.nl/)

The Dutch fishing industry supports about 600 businesses; employs a crew of 2,000 and is worth about 1 Billion Euro per annum. They mainly fish for Plaice, Sole and Herring. (Herring is as important to the Dutch culture and national identity as is say Grouse or Haggis is to Scotland; they even have a national day to mark the start of the Herring season.) – On the other hand, the British preference is for Haddock and Cod. (Think of how important “Fish & Chips” is to our culture and national identity.)

The eight continental fishing lands get about one third of their catch from the British zone; with the Dutch taking 80% of their Herring, 60% of their Mackerel and 35% of their Plaice from the Western half of the North Sea.  (Gerard van Balsfoort, chairman European Fisheries Alliance: http://fisheriesalliance.eu/) Loosing these sources will hit the Dutch fishing industries hard. One can expect lay-offs, business closures and ships being de-commissioned. (And even with the best will in the world, compensation will be demanded.) – But one can also expect losses on the English side as they lose access to Haddock and Cod which may be in the Eastern Sector.  This can only be good news for the fish as the Herring learn to hide in the West and the Cod learn to hide in the East! – But I cannot imagine any fisherman allowing this situation to last for long. Besides, Dutch Fishermen have been granted Freedom of the City of London in perpetuity for their generous act of feeding Londoners in the havoc that followed the great fire of 1666. This freedom entitles them to land their catch in London for all eternity.

What are our Energy Futures?

Entering the common Electricity & Energy Market is a slow process taking many steps; for instance, it took two decades to agree the European Standard Colour Code for Electricity Wiring. We are now in mid-leap for another step and may well have to change direction in mid-air. The step I am talking about is agreeing the domestic supply voltage.

The Low Voltage Directive, 2014/35/EU, stipulated that the supply should be 230 Volts ±6%. For countries that had previously been on 220 Volts, the transition was easy: legacy equipment had its life expectancy shortened, and replacement products would be better performing. The consumer did not notice the change and everyone wins. But for us, going from 240 down to 230 Volts, it’s not been easy. If we change, life expectancy of legacy products goes up, but performance goes down. If we don’t change, life expectancy of new products will go down. The EU passed Standard EN50160 which allows our supply Voltage to be 230 +10%/-6%. This does not alter the technical reality at all, it just allows European Appliance Manufacturers to sell into the UK. We still have a 240 Volt supply.

Now what happens when you go to the shops to buy “white goods” or Electricity Appliances? The appliance is probably labelled 220-240 Volts, which is a lie, as it is most likely designed to operate at 230 Volts. You either have to shop around for a product specifically designed for the UK market, which is shrinking in relative terms and probably only satisfied by the more expensive high-end products. Or you have to accept market reality, with the caveat that the product will burn-out sooner than expected.

Keith Taylor, our Green MEP, is acutely aware of this problem and suggests complaining to one’s Energy Supplier, the Energy Ombudsman or the Citizens Advice Bureau whenever an appliance bought since 2014 burns-out. (Though I somehow doubt that any of them could be persuaded to take the matter seriously)

This is not the only problem. Energy Companies force, what is often significantly more than 240 Volts, into an increasing number of devices designed to take 230 Volts they need more Capacity. Increased Capacity means more Power Stations; and the difference between accepting the Low Voltage Directive (without the caveats provided by the Standard) and not; amounts to several Power Stations at least the size of Hinkley Point. In other words, if we switched to 230 Volts along with the rest of Europe, we would not need to invest in Hinkley Point.

Power Stations need raw fuel, and Nuclear Power Stations need fissile material. Just one cold winter of fuel starvation and the politics will quickly turn very nasty. (Just think of the real story behind Iraq, Afghanistan and Pearl Harbour). The EU is there to ensure equitable access to raw fuel for all members; and the importance of this job should not be under-estimated.

Nuclear Safety is another issue. The greatest threat to our Nuclear Safety here in Kent is the giant old and run-down Nuclear Power Station at Dunkirk. Power Stations like this typically have an incident somewhere in the world once every three years, and the last ones at Dunkirk where in 2006, 2007 & 2009. – How long will it be before we have a Chernobyl or Fukushima on our doorstep? As an EU member, we are entitled to over-site of the safety at here; but if we leaves, what guarantees do we have?

The question is. If we leave the EU, will we continue with a switch to 230 Volts or will we stay as we are? Will the EU rescind EN50160 in order to improve standards, but making EU products less suitable for our market? Will manufacturers step up to fill our relative declining market? And, will we remain a member of EURATOM? (Theresa May wants us to leave).

Lessons from History

A time of war and a time for peace – These words, made famous by the Byrds in their 7-single: “Turn! Turn! Turn!” came straight from Ecclesiastes 3:8, but are remarkable similar to Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” 3:17(1) which says: He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot will be victorious.

Sun Tzu wrote this during the Warring States period of Chinese history (403BC-221BC) which ended up with the creation of the earliest Civilization State known to man. We have had our fighting, now is the time for peace. The European Union is Churchill’s unfinished business; indeed, he was one of the first to call for the creation of a ‘United States of Europe’ (given in his speech to the University of Zürich in 1946). – But, how does China look 2,200 years later? They have gone through periods of world exploration & trade, invasion, isolationism, imperialism, communism and back to world trade with astronomic growth; but they still stayed together. They have one language, one army, one currency, one identity – but still have no free trade agreement (between their provinces). They are still extremely sensitive about managing separatism and dissent, just think of: Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Tibet & the Dalai Lama, Ai Weiwei, the Hui & Uyghur. – The “project” of unifying Europe is not a short-term project. We can expect setbacks and disillusionment during the first 10 or 100 years of peace; we must look to the next 1,000 or 10,000 years. Think of General Patton setting the course of history for the next 1,000 years; or the Japanese cry of banzai – “may your dynasty reign for 10,000 years”. These are the long-term visionaries.

The Pound, the Pfund and the Livra – These are various names for Europe’s first single currency set-up by Charlemagne of the Holy Roman Empire in the 8’th Century; except, in England, King Offa set-up a parallel but equivalent system. The Pound (Value) was made up of 120 silver dinars minted by the Caliphate of Baghdad and stacked as a tower; The Pound (Mass) was defined by the weight of this tower. (A dinar was therefore worth two pennies.) – The symbol £ or the abbreviation lb remind us of the common European standard; and the 12 sides of the new coin remind us of its Islamic roots. – Punishment for clipping (the medieval equivalent of quantitative easing) was amputation of the right hand; more rigorous enforcement by the English may well be why the Pound sterling is more valuable than say the Lira is today. We cannot say that anyone is more supportive than England of a common European currency. – However, it is worth remembering that it is thanks to sharia law and the Caliphate of Baghdad that we’ve got to where we are today.

The Napoleonic Wars – Europe’s history is full of inevitable twists and turns, because the continent is criss-crossed by rivers and mountains that thwart communication, prevent integration and sometimes helped or often hindered trade and military action. (Even late-starter America has surged ahead of us with the help of its Great Plains, Great Lakes and navigable Mississippi.) – But one story is interesting: During the early 19’th Century when Mercantilism and the Guilds (protectionism) where all the rage; Napoleon set-up the Continental System of European protectionism; partly in response to the rise of England as a great sea power; effectively trying to blockade British trade with Europe. He brought Russia into the Continental System by getting them to sign the Treaty of Tilsit. – St. Petersburg society was not impressed; many of whom where Anglophiles, and avid readers of Adam Smith and his new theories of free-trade. The Tilsit Treaty had a devastating effect on Russia, which depended on Britain for trade. Merchants found themselves in abject poverty and the value of the ruble collapsed. – Eventually, Russia broke ranks by allowing “neutral” (British) Ships to use their ports for Export purposes (nobody questioned what they were carrying on the inbound journey). Ignoring the Tilsit Treaty contributed to the French invasion of Russia in 1812, Russian retaliation, the occupation of Paris and the subsequent demise of Napoleon. – Wellington survived Waterloo and spent the next four decades putting a British “spin” on events; but it’s interesting to remember the struggle between protectionism and free trade that lay at the heart of the Napoleonic Wars.

Rise of despotic powers – The rise and fall of the German Third Reich can be divided into three phases: 1) Winning the populist vote in July 1932 on a Nationalist anti-Marxist ticket; 2) consolidating power with the Enabling Act 23 March 1933 which gave the chancellor the right to enact laws without consulting parliament or even limited by the constitution; 3) leaving the world community, in October 1933 Germany withdrew from the League of Nations – eventually democracy could only be restored by external forces. – The rise and fall of South Africa’s Apartheid government can be divided into three phases: 1) Winning the populist vote in June 1948 on a Nationalist and anti-Integration ticket; 2) consolidating power with the Senate Act No 53 which effectively packed the senate with political appointees; 3) leaving the world community, on 31 May 1961 South Africa withdrew from the British Commonwealth in order to become a Republic – eventually democracy could only be restored by external pressure. – What is happening in Britain today: 1) UKIP won the populist vote in the European Parliament on 22 May 2014 on a Nationalist and anti-EU ticket; 2) consolidation of power with the House of Lords Act 1999 excluded hereditary peers, making room for even more political appointees; 3) on 27 March 2017 Theresa May signed the Article 50 notification letter that we would leave the European Union? The amazing thing is that in all cases, a large section of the voting population believed that their government was doing the right thing. Where will this all end?

History is strange and can too easily be interpreted superficially and with an inevitable bias. Why has Europe tried so hard to unite and failed every time? And what is different this time? –

  1. Firstly, everyone must have access to the sea no matter what (we are fortunate in this regard and may not understand others predicament): Russia to the Black Sea; Northern Europe and the Nordic countries through the Greenland-Iceland-UK Gap (which NATO was set-up to deny); the Black Sea countries through the Bosphorus & Dardanelles (deniable by Turkey); the Mediterranean countries through Gibraltar (deniable by the UK); and all through Suez (snatched by Egypt); Brussels is a Sea Port; and even Switzerland has a Navy. We’re in a scrum with our hands at each others throats.
  2. Secondly, everyone needs to be able to be self-sufficient: as an agricultural society, we used to have all we needed, but since we have industrialized, we discover that there are always certain things that we need and that we don’t have. (Russia has no lead, Germany has no nickel, France has no tea, the Low Countries have no mountains, etc.) But working together our chances of survival are better. This translates into things like Food Security, Environment Protection, Climate Change and Population Control; which are best tackled as Europe-wide problems with Europe-wide solutions.
  3. Thirdly, the world is very different now to how it was in the past: our coal mines are exhausted, North Sea oil is coming to an end; we are no longer an Empire with a captive market; we have a tunnel across the Channel and a tunnel through the Alps; we have superb air travel and an integrated railway network right across Europe. We have instant communication by broadcast media, telephone and the internet. Even language barriers are crumbling with increased education and automated translation tools. This stronger infrastructure also gives us improved stability, not only currency stability but also in supply and demand of all sorts of commodities, though we still have a long way to go to reap the full benefits. Stronger communications can also give us better government.
  4. Fourthly, we are living in the age of the Civilization State (the Nation State will soon be as dead as the City State became with the industrial revolution). Great Empires like China, the USA, India, Russia and the Arab world will increasingly be able to push us around. On our own, we’ll be blown about like a reed in the wind; only by standing together with Europe will we be able to maintain our own true identity.
  5. Fifthly is the “threat” of Globalization: issues like Internet Protection (child porn, snuff movies & Jihad recruitment), Tax Evasion (by multi-nationals) and International Crime & Terrorism are far too big for any one country to tackle on its own, but by co-operation across Europe, we stand a far better chance. On the other hand, if you are interested in the “opportunities” of Globalization, notice how the big Technology Companies are all based in California or China. A Unicorn is a company with an IPO of over $1 Billion; how many Unicorns do we have in the UK? Many manufacturing companies are already giving the UK a miss, because it is too small an entity on its own.

With the capabilities of niche products, “Big Data” and extreme industrial leverage businesses are looking towards markets in excess of 100 million; with its 750 million consumers, Europe is just about interesting for industry. However, Adam Smith and the concepts of free-trade are being seriously questioned as we start to experience the limits of growth. We need new economic solutions for a new world future; it’s a common problem, and working within Europe can help.

It’s NOT Dover & Out!

The fact that Article 50 was submitted this week does not mean it’s “Dover & Out” as a headline from The Sun stated. The submission of Article 50 is just a formal notification of the UK’s intention to withdraw from the EU, and while the government had to seek parliamentary approval via a Bill with royal assent to submit the declaration, it does not need anyone’s permission to change its mind.

Article 50 symbolizes nothing more than the beginning of the Brexit negotiations, of what will likely be a long and painful, but ultimately unsuccessful attempt of trying to extract the UK from the European Union. It will not succeed because the challenges are too complex at too many levels and because the cost are too high.

It will fail because the negotiations will bring reality to the table – the reality that we are living in an inter-connected world of shared rules, and that leaving the EU means giving up control, not to the EU but to the mercenary rules of the WTO which will prevent the EU and UK from reaching a good deal no matter how much goodwill there is on both sides.

The problems brought up by the negotiations and the Great Repeal Bill will also expose the reality that Britain’s EU membership fee goes to agencies and projects that are very important to the country. In the past few weeks we have seen that leaving EURATOM and EUROPOL will create problems that may be impossible to resolve no matter how much money is thrown at them, and they were never discussed prior to the referendum. How can leaving a nuclear safety treaty and stopping anti-terrorism cooperation mean taking back control?

Ultimately Brexit will fail is because there will come a point when the people have had enough. As prices rise and truths are revealed, more and more people are coming together to oppose the destructive forces of Brexit and celebrate the European part of their identity. In all counties across the UK, local pro-European groups are forming themselves to assert their views. In Kent alone, there are over 15. The pro-European voices of this country are waking up and will remoan for a long as is necessary to remain within the EU.

Beware of Mandate Creep

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:

    1. 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.

      Referendum results with estimates of type of Brexit wanted. “Hard Brexit” refers to option 4 (No Deal), offered prior to the vote. “Soft Brexit” refers to the Norway, Switzerland and Canada options (models 1-3), showing that the majority of voters clearly prefers some kind of a deal. If you dispute the data, please comment below, stating reasons and/or sources to support your comment.
    2. 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%.
    3. 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.
    4. Referendum results with leave vote segregated by political ideology. “Other” primarily refers to protest vote. These are estimates based on anecdotal data prior and since the referendum. If you dispute the data, please comment below, stating reasons and/or sources to support your comment.

      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.

A Plea to all MPs that voted Remain

The triggering of Article 50 is not just a procedural step in the UK leaving the EU. Is is of critical importance. According to the wording of the Article, from that moment the UK surrenders all unilateral power to decide its future relationship with either the EU or the Single Market…

Dear MP

I write to you in your capacity as an MP who voted Remain in the Referendum.

May I please ask that, before voting on the triggering of Article 50, you bear in mind the following points:-

1.  The triggering of Article 50 is not just a procedural step in the UK leaving the EU.  Is is of critical importance.  According to the wording of the Article, from that moment the UK surrenders all unilateral power to decide its future relationship with either the EU or the Single Market.

2.  Whatever opportunity is given to either the electorate or Parliament to vote on any finally negotiated Brexit terms, the only possible outcomes will be the endorsement of those terms or their rejection, which will still leave the UK outside both the EU and the Single Market.

3.  The Referendum was expressly Advisory and Consultative (see House of Commons Briefing Paper 07212, section 5), designed to advise but not direct you on your decision.

4.  It has been an established principle, at least since the time of Edmund Burke, that MPs do a disservice to their constituents if they attempt to mirror popular opinion rather than to exercise their own judgment on national issues.  Debates on the death penalty are a clear practical example of proper exercise of judgment contrary to popular opinion.

5.  The recent Supreme Court decision, although based on narrower points of law, reaffirms that parliamentary sovereignty is essentially distinct from popular sovereignty, with the clearest implication that MPs have a positive duty to exercise individual judgment.

6.  With hindsight some Remain MPs may regret having supported the decision to hold a Referendum out of excessive party loyalty.  Please do not compound this error by voting to trigger Article 50 on the same grounds.

7.  MPs have been reflecting on the merits and demerits of the UK in the EU for decades, while the electorate has been subjected to merely a few months of intense and often misleading lobbying.

In all these circumstances, the wisest course would be a postponement of the triggering of Article 50 to allow for a cooling-off period of say two years, during which the electorate would gain a deeper understanding of the likely consequences of Parliament following their advice.  At the end of that period, in a calmer and better informed environment, Parliament should decide on the right course for the UK.  You will not be thanked by the electorate for having taken precipitate, irreversible action if, as is possible, public attitudes to the EU change as understanding deepens.

I urge you not only to exercise your own individual and independent judgment on this crucial issue, but to encourage all your parliamentary colleagues to do so as well.  This is your true duty to the electorate.

Spare a thought for the losers

There is one simple difference between the referendum to leave the EU in 2016 and the vote to join in 1975 that is often overlooked, but is perhaps the most important moral issue of all.

41 years ago there were no tangible losses for the losing side in the sense that there are for millions of people right now.

41 years is a long time during which millions of people used the increasing freedom that EU membership gave them to establish new lives and businesses on either side of the Channel, as well as the North Sea and Irish Sea.  They formed new partnerships, started families, found new customers and friendships.

The losers include over 5 million people who have led their lives on the basis of being European, and now face the prospect of losing the right to live in their homes, to keep their jobs and to keep their children in schools, and to stay among friends they have known all their lives.

The losers aren’t just London’s bankers and lawyers, but countless small companies and self-employed people in small towns and villages throughout Kent and all over the UK, who provide a wide range of services to clients on the continent. Without the right to work freely in other EU countries, they are now threatened with anything from a 10-25% loss in turnover for some, to a total collapse of their business model for others, as their home market shrinks from half a billion to 65 million.

The losers also includes millions of Brits who never left the UK, but have benefited from a great variety of rights and standards that the political establishment in the UK was often unwilling to grant- especially in matters of environmental health, such as legislation that prohibits the use of potentially harmful additives in food.

Having so many losers puts the lawfulness of the entire referendum into question. Is it ever really democratic to have a vote about destroying people’s rights and lives?