Will Hutton: The Challenges We Face

The following is a full transcript of the keynote speech by Will Hutton, Political Economist, Writer, Journalist, held at the Remainers to Campaigners workshop on 21st October 2017 in Sevenoaks.

I’m delighted to be here, and delighted to see the two flags. I’m very keen that we should always fly the EU flag alongside the Union Jack. For me the EU flag stands for values that I really care about, and I know most Europeans and most British care about too. These are the values that we have inherited partly from our Christian tradition, and partly from the European Enlightenment. The Aquis Communitaire, the Four Freedoms, Europe’s collective commitment to democracy, the rule of law, evidence-based science, non-fake news, belief in objective reporting, tolerance of the Other, respect for argument, are essential conditions for our wonderful European civilisation.

I’ve been a lifelong European, I learned it on my father’s knee. He landed in Normandy on D-Day plus 8, and he had a few things to say to Nigel Farage about fighting Germans. Continue reading “Will Hutton: The Challenges We Face”

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).

March for Europe

March 25th is the 60th Anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, and is being celebrated throughout Europe. For us in the UK, political circumstances mean that the celebrations with be joint with political protest against Brexit and how the government is handling it.

Saturday, March 25th:

March for Europe Demonstrations

March 25th is the 60th Anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, and is being celebrated throughout Europe. For us in the UK, political circumstances mean that the celebrations with be joint with political protest against Brexit and how the government is handling it.

Many different organisations are joining this march, as well as thousands of individuals who are not affiliated to anyone,  but each have their own reason for joining, because we all have so much to lose. Whether you care most about Freedom of Movement, the Single Market, environmental protection or one of the many other benefits that EU membership gives us, this is the time to stand up and be counted.


Schedule: Sat, March 25th, 2017:

  • 9-10 a.m. – Depart West Kent (wherever you live – see below)
  • 11 a.m.     –  Meet at south end of Park Lane
  • 2 p.m.        – End of march, speeches


While SSTIE is not involved in the organisation of this event, we support this event and we encourage our members and others to join.

A number of us will be traveling by train where we will be joining with members of Tonbridge and Malling for Europe and Tunbridge Wells For Europe. If you would like to travel with other people from the local area, then please let us know using the contact form, or simply come to meet us for one of the following trains:

(9.10 – Meet at Tunbridge Wells)


9.44 – Depart Tonbridge (meet at 9.25)

9.53 – Depart Sevenoaks

10.04 – Depart Orpington

10.37 – Arrive in Victoria

Train  2

9.51  – Depart Borough Green & Wrotham (meet at 9.30)

10.00 – Depart Otford (meet at 9.45)

10.09 – Depart Swanley (Platform 3 / meet on train / 3rd carriage)

10.41 – Arrive in Victoria


10.45 a.m. – Assemble outside WHSmiths in Victoria/ walk to Park Lane


March for Europe Route


Operation Stack after Brexit

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.

Recommended Further reading: For more information on this subject, please see this report from the Road Haulage Association.

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.

New EU AFCO Study: Brexit and the European Union

A very insightful new study about Brexit written for the EU Constitutional Affairs Committee has just been published, providing what appears to be the most comprehensive analysis of legal steps for the Brexit process and options for the UK’s future with the EU so far.


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.

Trade under WTO Rules – What does it mean?

What are the implications of “trade under WTO rules” if the UK leaves the single market?

The parliamentary International Trade Committee has been interviewing subject specialists to provide insights into the legal and political dimensions of trading under WTO rules only.

This session on Parliament TV has particular emphasis on technical issues such as non-tariff barriers to trade agricultural trade, the legality of establishing a new farm subsidy system outside the CAP, and the practical difficulties of extracting the UK share from the EU in the WTO quota system.

PARLIAMENT TV: International Trade Committee – WTO Rules and UK Agriculture (excerpt)