The Autumn of Discontent – #StopBrexit

‘Stop Brexit’ is the message of the times and the forthcoming Autumn of Discontent represents an attempt to restore democracy

The period before the last general election was a time of immense anguish for those who believe in the potential of the EU. During the election campaign Theresa May, backed by the majority of polls predicting an overwhelming electoral victory for her party, repeatedly stated that every vote for her was a vote to strengthen her hands in negotiating Brexit. The outcome of the recent general election in effect wiped out the mandate she claimed; her ‘strong and stable’ election slogan was followed by an electoral result revealing instead that she was weak and wobbly. And so the referendum mandate, based on the myth that it represented the will of the people, was significantly undermined.

The political cowardice of the Labour Party to hide behind the myth of the will of the people has only served to deepen divisions in British society and highlight further the lack of consensus. Tory hardliners and Corbynistas have hijacked the agenda. Party politics prevails over true democracy.

Yet despite the lack of a clear and overwhelming support for Brexit, Theresa May and her party continue to pursue the Brexit agenda. Having failed to provide any detailed plans beyond a jingoistic narrative for a ‘Global Britain’ trading with unknown countries at this stage and with access to endless chlorinated chickens, she continues to ignore a number of recent polls clearly showing that the original protest vote has now switched sides. The Labour Party, mainly through statements by Corbyn, seeks a Brexit that is good for jobs and employment; a contradiction evident to most sensible people.

The folly of Brexit is revealed through numerous reports predicting economic and social upheaval. There has not been a single report that Brexit can deliver a better society. The blindness and moral cowardice of the two main political parties caught in a vicious circle of groupthink reminiscent of the ‘Abilene paradox’ undermines the democratic will of the majority of people. The status of three million EU citizens remains unclear. And all this in a country with over two thousand food banks and over one million children below the poverty line. None of the two political parties has attempted to explain how Brexit might address austerity.

It was George Orwell who stated that speaking the truth in times of universal deceit is a revolutionary act. The deceit is blatantly obvious not only through the white letters on the side of the red bus but also through the endless appeals to xenophobia, hatred and division in the pages of some mainstream media. During these times of deep crisis muddling the message with slogans that might appeal to ‘soft leavers/Brexiters’ is an act of complacency. There is nothing to rethink. There is a lot to reject.

The three Stop Brexit marches (September 17, Bournemouth, Lib. Dem party conference – September 24, Brighton, Labour party conference – October 1, Manchester, Tory party conference) as well as varied other actions with an explicit Stop Brexit focus during this forthcoming autumn, represent a message that is timely and are an attempt to restore democracy.

Emma Forage

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

South East Groups Workshop (12 Aug 2017)

Sevenoaks and Swanley Together in Europe are pleased to announce this workshop for local groups in the South East.

The event will use interactive peer-to-peer learning techniques to allow participants to share experiences, learn from each other and explore ideas for cooperation.

DATE: 12.08.2017
TIME: 9.30-13.00 followed by networking until c.15.00
VENUE: 71 London Road, Sevenoaks, Kent TN3 1AX
COST: Free

Objectives:

-identify common areas of interest;
-consider the potential for Remain groups to cooperate;
-identify areas where cooperation would be helpful;
-exchange experiences and discuss ideas to overcome commonpbstacles;
-discuss ways of achieving our similar aims in opposing Brexit;
-facilitate networking and to open communication channels between Remain groups in the Southeast;
– establish cooperation working groups;and
-discuss specific projects being organised by participating Remain groups.

Programme

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.

Undue Influence Legal Challenge (update)

UPDATE 22.6.2017

The Restoring Integrity to Democracy initiative has decided to discontinue this case on financial grounds. For more info please see the statement on the Restoring Integrity facebook page.


Restoring Integrity is a citizens initiative that seeks to ensure that the UK’s Election Laws are upheld – and that any attempt to undermine the democratic process by breaking these election laws is prosecuted to the fullest extent under the law.

They are currently raising funds for their new legal challenge – a private prosecution to investigate “undue influence” in the 2016 EU referendum and to criminally prosecute the individuals responsible of any corrupt campaign practices.

More details on the case are available on the Restoring Integrity website, and you can also follow them on facebook or twitter.

However, to make this case happen, it still requires a lot more funds than the £15,000 raised so far. So please give what you can to the crowd-justice fundraiser and encourage others to do likewise!

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).

First ever case of cyber cooperation at EU level

As of Friday 12 May 2017, multiple variants of a ransomware named WannaCry have been spreading globally, affecting hundreds of thousands of users, organizations, including users in the European Union. It is understood that the cyber attack is focussed on Microsoft Windows based operating systems.

Udo HELMBRECHT, Executive Director of ENISA, said “as the European Cybersecurity Agency, we are closely monitoring the situation and working around the clock with our stakeholders to ensure the security of European citizens and businesses, and the stability of the Digital Single Market. We are reporting on the evolution of the attacks to the European Commission and liaising with our partners in the European Union CSIRT Network”.

ENISA and several European Member States are currently working together to assess the situation at European level.  A dedicated taskforce has been set up at ENISA to support what is the first ever case of cyber cooperation at EU level in that the EU Standard Operating Procedures, developed by ENISA and the Member States, are currently being used to this end.

What makes this event unusual is that this attack impacted many organisations across the world in short period of time. Recent estimates, at this point in time, suggest that approximately 190,000 computers in over 150 countries have been affected. European Critical infrastructure operators (health, energy, transport, finance and telecoms), manufacturers and service providers have been affected.

This malware also affected computers used for dedicated tasks such as robotics, information display systems or medical scanners. A number of car manufacturing plants in the UK, France, Romania and Slovenia have already indicated that their production lines are affected by this malware.

The ransomware prevents access by encrypting multiple common file types such as documents, images and videos, asks for a ransom and distributes automatically. The key characteristic of this attack is a fast propagation leveraging a known critical vulnerability affecting Microsoft Windows systems, exploited by the ransomware without user interaction.

ENISA understands that at this point in time users who are using the latest version of the windows operating system and have their software up to date are not affected by this attack.

Users affected by ransomware are generally presented with a message on the screen indicating that their computer systems and or files have been blocked and that the files will be unblocked if a ransom is paid.

Payment is often requested to be made using bitcoin as an attempt to effect a money transfer in an anonymous way.

This type of cyber-attack does not generally involve the stealing of personal data.

The compromise can be displayed in a number of ways including

  • Not being able to access your files
  • Access to certain operational programs being blocked

Analysis of the malware by ENISA, indicates that different encryption keys are generated for different files. In this regard the malware is relatively sophisticated. ENISA’s experts continue to analyse the ransomware to advise Member States in order to raise awareness of this particular case.

Ransomware attacks are generally successful when an internet user opens an email with an attachment containing malware. Other methods involve a web users visiting a compromised web site where activating a link on the web site can result in malware being downloaded onto the user’s computer.

In this particular case the infection vector involves targeting vulnerable computers with identified open ports. No action was required by the user to become infected.

ENISA recommendations

If your systems have not been hit by the ransomware, you are recommended to apply the following actions as soon as possible:

  • Back-up your files
  • Patch your system with the latest Microsoft’s patch
  • Update your Antivirus to the latest version
  • Consider adding a rule on your router or firewall to block incoming traffic to ports that are not necessary.

As with all types of security there is no guarantee and users are recommended to follow best practice to minimise the risk of attack.

Users are advised that payment of the ransom does not guarantee that the user will receive the code to decrypt their files or that their computers will be restored to its proper function. Affected users are advised to seek expert assistance and to contact law enforcement personnel to report the crime.

For more information:

Check out ENISA’s technical note: WannaCry Ransomware Outburst

Europe Day Picnic (West Kent)

SUNDAY, MAY 14TH:

Europe Day Picnic

Join us for a picnic to celebrate Europe Day – the annual celebration of European Unity and Peace.

Europe Day, also knows as Schuman Day, usually falls on May 9th and it is a public holiday celebrated with EU flag-waving activities in many European countries.

It is named after the historic declaration by French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman in 1950, which led to the Treaty of Paris between the 6 founding members of the European Coal and Steel Community of France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands in 1951.

As May 9th falls on a weekday we will hold the picnic on the Sun 14th – same day that many other organisations including the EU offices in Strasbourg and Luxembourg will be celebrating it.

Our picnic is a jointly organised event by Sevenoaks & Swanley Together in Europe and Tonbridge & Malling Unite For Europe, in association with Greenwich for Europe and Lewisham East for Europe who will be holding a simultaneous Europe Day picnic at Blackheath, as well as other groups all over the country celebrating Europe Day in their local area.

So, bring some food, some drink, a mat to sit on, some blue and yellow balloons or an EU flag, if you have one, and join us in the village of Otford, just outside Sevenoaks, for a nice family-friendly day out.

Otford Rec
Otford Recreation Ground

The venue is within easy walking distance of Otford train station.

Date: 14 May 2017
Time: 12:00–15:00
Location: Otford Recreation Ground, Otford, near Sevenoaks TN14

Acquired Rights of EU Citizens in the UK and British Citizens living in the EU-27

A new study commissioned by the European Union’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs examines the relevance of the legal concept of “acquired rights” in the context of the loss of EU citizenship rights by EU-27 Citizens in the UK as well as UK citizens in the EU-27.

“It is quite plausible that many of these citizens, and others with expectations of rights, are not simply going to settle for the sudden loss of the status of European citizen and, consequently, of the rights to move, reside, work with rights, set up companies, provide services, have access to health and social services, etc. In the absence of a reasonable agreement between the United Kingdom and the Union, we can expect the level of litigation to be high.”

(The Impact and Consequences of Brexit on Acquired Rights of EU Citizens Living in the UK and British Citizens living in the EU-27, p.53)