Barnier on Brexit: “Keep paying the subs”

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Yesterday I attended a meeting at which Michel Barnier, the EU’s appointed Brexit negotiator, presented the current status from his point of view — and I had the opportunity to respond.  On the plus side, he was measured and reasonable, insisting that his stance would be neither aggressive nor revengeful.  And he set out his stall in clear and organised terms.  But he also came up with a few propositions which might cause some consternation on our side of the Channel.

He said that his three tasks were to negotiate the UK’s withdrawal; to agree a future relationship; and to agree also a transitional relationship.  Many Brits will bridle at the term “transitional deal”, but both Barnier, and the parliament’s Brexit spokesman Guy Verhofstadt, insisted that any such deal must be short-term.  Verhosfstadt spoke of “sunset clauses”.

Barnier said that his key principles would be “the unity of the EU 27” (we can have no problem with that); and the “Fundamental Four Freedoms” (again, we can have no problem – provided he means amongst the 27, and not the UK, as I made clear in my response);  and the third principle: Member-States must enjoy better terms that third countries (i.e. the UK post-Brexit).  Our view is that being out represents better terms than being in, but let that pass.

He went on to mention four key areas of concern.  First, the status of acquired rights, with respect to EU citizens currently in the UK, and of course vice versa.  I believe that given a degree of goodwill, this should not represent a major problem (although so far Merkel has declined to confirm this to Theresa May).

Secondly – the sticking point – future financial commitments.  Barnier argues that the UK has entered into future commitments with the EU, in the EIB, structural and agricultural funds, the Horizon Research programme, foreign aid and other matters, which will require us to continue to contribute to Brussels for years after Brexit.  I responded that we had entered into these commitments as an EU member-state within an EU framework, and any such commitments were clearly null and void after Brexit. “We have a saying in England” (I said), “You must cut your coat according to your cloth, and let’s face it, you’re going to have less cloth”.

On the EU side Brexit is often referred to as “a divorce”.  But as I know to my cost, divorce involves splitting the assets.  “The EU has substantial real estate and other assets”, I said. “You would be astonished and affronted if the British government demanded payment for our share of these assets on Brexit.  We are equally affronted by your demands to continued contributions after Brexit”.  That said, I would not rule out joining some EU programmes after Brexit – perhaps Erasmus and Horizon – but it must be on a purely voluntary basis, and at a price that represents fair value.

Thirdly, the issue of borders, and Barnier cited Gibraltar, the Cyprus RAF base at Akrotiri, and Northern Ireland.  As I see it, Gibraltar and Cyprus revert to the status quo ante.  Northern Ireland does represent a problem in terms of the border, but I believe that with goodwill and creative thinking a satisfactory solution can be found.

And fourthly, climate policy, which Barnier seems to believe needs to be “negotiated”.  I in return insisted that climate policy for the UK after Brexit would be entirely a matter for a sovereign British government.  That government could decide to stick to EU policies and targets, but I hope it will not, and especially that it will not give the EU any say or status in UK energy policy.

Equally, I insisted that immigration and fisheries (within our internationally-determined territorial waters) were not matters for negotiation.  A sovereign British parliament would decide.  Again, that does not preclude a range of agreements to be negotiated voluntarily, for example visa waivers on immigration, or access for foreign fishing boats to our fisheries (at a price).  But it does preclude the EU having any say in those areas.

Barnier said that if Britain wanted to control immigration then it could not be part of the EU Customs Union or Single Market, and would have to settle for a free trade deal.  I responded that this was very positive news, and was exactly what we (i.e. most of the Leave side) wanted.

In addition to exchanges with Barnier, I also crossed swords with Manfred Weber, the German MEP who leads the EPP Group.

Manfred Weber, EPP “We negotiated with David Cameron earlier this year and offered the UK a very generous package of measures covering various items including reduced welfare benefits for EU immigrants”.

RFH, EFDD (somewhat later):  “I’d like to respond to Manfred Weber.  You said the renegotiation you offered to David Cameron was ‘generous’.  It was no such thing.  It was trivial and derisory.  It did not start to address the legitimate concerns of the British people.  It brought derision on Cameron.  And it could well have been a significant factor in the Brexit vote.  The British people thought ‘Well if that’s the best they can offer, we’re better off out'”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Lessons of Lysenko – video

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The Lessons of Lysenko

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Following the death of Fidel Castro, it’s perhaps a good time to think about the malign impacts of totalitarian government, and the damage that political agendas can do to science.

I was recently discussing Lysenko with a friend (as you do), and naturally we turned to Wikipedia to clarify a point.  And I came across a quote that hit me between the eyes (figuratively speaking);

“The term Lysenkoism can also be used metaphorically to describe the manipulation or distortion of the scientific process as a way to reach a predetermined conclusion as dictated by an ideological bias, often related to social or political objectives”.

Dear Reader, you’re way ahead of me.  Yes of course, I was struck immediately by the read-across to climate science.  The parallels are remarkable.

You’ll be familiar with the story of Lysenko.  He was a Russian biologist and agronomist who rejected Darwinian evolution and the rôle of genes, and preferred instead the Lamarckian concept of “inheritance of acquired characteristics”.   Of course that concept is difficult to accept – especially when you reflect that a man who has lost a leg is perfectly capable of fathering a child with two legs.  With the benefit of hindsight, it is difficult to believe that Lamarckism was once regarded as a credible alternative to Darwinian theory – but so it was.

And Lysenko, in the late 1920s, took that view, and built a whole theory of plant breeding on it.  More than that, he had the ear of Stalin, and Lysenkoism became official Soviet doctrine.  The theory was imposed rigidly.  More than 3000 mainstream biologists were fired, imprisoned or executed for challenging it.

Lysenkoism held sway in the USSR until the sixties, with dire consequences for Soviet agriculture.  Again with hindsight it is difficult to credit the fact that it survived so long, when plainly it did not work.  But worse than that, not only did it fail in the field (literally), it also totally blocked proper academic study and research in Russia in the area of plant breeding and Mendelian genetics for decades.

So how close are the parallels with climate theory?  Of course Lysenkoism was restricted to the USSR.  And it was imposed by a totalitarian régime that could, and did, shoot dissenters.  Climate alarmism, on the other hand is broadly speaking global (even if some countries merely pay lip-service to the orthodoxy).  It is imposed not by a violent autocracy, but by an intolerant and often vindictive establishment – scientific, media and political.  It threatens not imprisonment and murder, but the destruction of careers.  Scientists who dare to challenge the prevailing view are denied tenure, and publication, and perhaps worst of all, grant funding.  As a result, those who do dare to challenge the orthodoxy tend to be older scientists secure in their careers (and their pension funds).

In fact the parallels with the Soviet Union go further.  On the outer fringes of the Warmism movement we see demands for “Nuremberg-style trials” of “climate deniers” and the imprisonment of directors of fossil fuel companies.

Nor is it just scientists and company directors in the firing line.  The BBC, for example (always achingly, painfully “on message”) seeks to exclude climate sceptics, and it famously dropped David Bellamy, who was once nearly as popular a presenter on nature and wildlife issues as Attenborough, merely because he dared to express doubts about Global Warming.

We saw with the ClimateGate scandal how leading IPCC scientists engaged in “the manipulation or distortion of the scientific process as a way to reach a predetermined conclusion as dictated by an ideological bias”, just as Lysenkoism does.

We see that their prescriptions are utterly failing.  Björn Lomborg famously demonstrated (for example) that all the hundreds of millions of dollars invested in solar panels by Germany would have the effect (on the IPCC’s own estimates) of delaying the trajectory of global warming by only a few hours — by 2100. An utter waste of money and misallocation of resources.

Now, of course Warmism has become a multi-billion dollar industry, with money flooding in from governments, think tanks, academia and the capital markets.  The vested interests are huge.  It is both comical and pathetic to hear green apologists still complaining about “fossil fuel funding for climate denial” when any spending of that kind is utterly dwarfed by funding for the Green Blob.

And just as Lysenkoism prevented Russian agronomy from doing the right things, so Warmism, by focussing on mitigation, blinds us to the possible need for adaptation (in the unlikely event that warming becomes a significant problem).

Wealthy economies and societies are far more resilient to adverse conditions.  But prosperity depends critically on the availability of secure and affordable energy – which mitigation and greenery militate against.  Warmism prescribes vast up-front investment to guard against highly speculative and uncertain long-term outcomes.  By the time you realise you’re wrong, you’ve blown billions.  Adaptation on the other hand is proportionate, and involves spending money on targeted projects only as and when (and if) circumstances justify it.

The main difference between Lysenkoism and Warmism, as I see it, is that the damage done by Warmism is on a far larger scale and will be far more difficult to reverse.

 

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We have been subjected to a hostile, aggressive and discriminatory approach.

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The EU against Eurosceptics

The EU against Eurosceptics – please visit Facebook here to see my interview. The video was posted on November 24.

 

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Ignorance

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For years I’ve been writing about climate change – only to be told I’m a “climate change denier”.  On Twitter, I’m criticised daily for “stupidity and ignorance”, told that I ignore the science, asked how I as a non-specialist can challenge “the global consensus of scientists” – though that consensus does not actually exist, and as Michael (Jurassic Park) Crichton put it, “If it’s science, it’s not consensus, and if it’s consensus, it’s not science”.

Yet in fact it’s the trolls on Twitter who themselves seem supremely ignorant about the science.  Take an example.  Everyone concerned with climate science, whether alarmist or realist, knows perfectly well that the (admitted) warming effect of CO2 is negative logarithmic – a law of diminishing returns.  The more CO2 we have in the atmosphere, the less difference any given increase makes.  In fact if doubling CO2 from (say) 200 ppm to 400 ppm causes a temperature rise of x degrees, then you need another doubling – an extra 400 ppm, not another 200 – to get another increase of x degrees.

When I mentioned this in a blog, there were howls of anguish from the “pro-science” Warmists, demanding evidence and peer-reviewed papers to justify such an heretical suggestion.  I didn’t bother to reply – if they’re so totally ignorant of the subject, they’re simply not worth debating with.

The irony is that at least we ought to be able say what “x” is – how much warming do you get for a doubling of CO2?  But even the IPCC doesn’t pretend to know.  They give an estimated range of between 1.5oC and 4.5oC.  That’s a huge level of uncertainty, and makes a nonsense of the political debate about “keeping climate change below 2oC”.  Indeed some scientists believe that if you add in the effect of various feed-backs in our climate system, the figure could be close to zero, or even negative.  Certainly the fact that real, measured global temperatures persistently and substantially under-shoot the forecasts of the climate models suggests that the real value of “x”, as mediated by feed-backs in the climate system, may well be lower than the IPCC estimate.

Another example of ignorance: many warmists seem to imagine (if they’ve thought about it at all) that global temperatures (and perhaps atmospheric CO2 levels) have been more or less constant since the dawn of time.  They love to talk about the “pre-Industrial period” as though it implied stasis for millions of years.  But as the graph above illustrates, global temperatures have been cyclical throughout the last 10,000 years, on a very roughly 1000-year cycle.  Nothing in the graph indicates that anything unusual is happening.  We merely seem to be moving into a new, cyclical 21st Century optimum.  And by the way it’s called “an optimum” because on the whole human societies tend to do better and prosper more in warm periods than in cold periods (think Dark Ages).

And over the very long-term, on a geo-historical scale, we see that atmospheric CO2 levels have been much higher for most of the earth’s history than they are today (with no “runaway global warming”).  We live in an atmosphere which is impoverished in CO2 terms.  Indeed the “pre-industrial level’ of around 250 ppm was approaching the level which would threaten plant growth and undermine the viability of life on the planet.

But at least (say the warmists), we have our peer-reviewed science, and the “deniers” have no peer-reviewed science.  Here, of course, they are profoundly mistaken.  Try this book, published by the Heartland Institute and co-authored by my good friend Professor Fred Singer – an atmospheric physicist with a hugely imposing CV.  The book references hundreds of peer-reviewed papers.  Indeed some of the papers are the self-same ones cited by the IPCC, but are used here to support rather different conclusions.

The fact is that a significant minority of highly qualified scientists in the field are sceptical of the IPCC position.  The debate is not about science versus ignorance,.  It’s about alternative interpretations of huge, complex and sometimes contradictory data sets, and about a chaotic and complex climate system which despite all the peer-reviewed papers is still not well understood.

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Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe

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The Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe (ADDE) is an alliance of political parties from a number of European countries, based on MEPs who are also members of our EFDD Group www.efddgroup.eu/, but also national and regional parliamentarians from other countries where we have no MEP representation.  It enables us to access significant funding from the European parliament to use in various ways to promote our values.

Some in our Party have reservations about using EU money in this way.  So it is worth stressing that if we did not exist, our budget would not be returned to member-states, or still less to the tax-payer.  It would simply be redistributed to pro-EU groups in the parliament, who already get the lions’ share of the funding.  I personally have no qualms about getting a little of our own money back, and using it to promote freedom and democracy.

ADDE has already done some excellent work in the UK and across Europe.  We maintain the web-site, and a presence in social media @ADDEurope.  We publish papers on relevant political topics.  We have undertaken polling on voter attitudes and opinions in many countries (of which more below).  We distilled the results of our polling into a manifesto, the Stockholm Declaration.  This declaration was signed on behalf of our member parties at an event in the Grand Hotel on the Stockholm harbour Front – the hotel where for many decades the Nobel Prize ceremonies used to take place.

That evening, at a dinner organised by our associated Foundation, the Institute for Direct Democracy in Europe (IDDE) @IDDEurope, we awarded our first Annual European Freedom Award to Vaclav Klaus,  former Prime Minister and former President of the Czech Republic, who has been a lifetime champion of freedom and democracy in Europe.  (He remarked that he had never before received an award from a Brussels-based organisation!)  The two events, which attracted attendees from across Europe and also from the USA (including Becky Norton Dunlop of the Heritage Foundation and Joel Anand Samy and Natasha Srdoc of the International leaders’ Summit) attracted considerable press coverage for the Declaration.

However we have recently run into trouble with the parliament administration over our 2015 ADDE audit.   We knew ADDE expenditure would be subject to intense scrutiny, so we leant over backwards to ensure compliance.

We hired not one but two long-serving compliance officers who had experience of working for years with other groups in the parliament.  They were astonished at the parliament’s rejection of our activity – which is no different from that of other groups.  But pro-EU groups are not similarly challenged.

Much of our expenditure was on polling (as is that of other groups).  We published the results of our polling.  It was available to all political parties and media outlets, in the UK and overseas, and it cannot therefore be seen as “indirect campaigning” for any particular party.  Much of this activity was in the UK, which in view of the up-coming Brexit vote was of great interest to politicians of all persuasions across Europe, and formed the basis of our Stockholm Declaration, which was launched a few weeks ago.

We were subjected to hostile and aggressive interrogation by the parliament administration, who asked the same questions repeatedly, and ignored the answers and the large body of supporting evidence.  I must particularly credit the resilience and determination of our ADDE Director Yasmine Dehaene, who showed exemplary patience and courtesy in the face of sustained provocation.

It is clear that this was a long-planned and determined effort by the parliament with a view to closing us down.  It also appeared to have the parallel objectives of intimidating our staff and wasting their time.

What they have done is to widen the definition of “indirect support for a party” to include just about any activity which might be remotely interesting to ADDE members.

We submitted a long lawyer’s letter just before yesterday’s Bureau meeting, rebutting in detail, with supporting evidence where relevant, all the points they had made.  They failed even to acknowledge it, and their final document includes many of the errors of fact which we had pointed out.  Moreover their detailed verdict was delivered to us during the Bureau meeting – clear evidence that it was prepared in advance, and that the Bureau’s deliberations were a fraud.

The parliament administration is judge, jury and executioner in its own cause.  It is now demanding the return of around €170,000 and will withhold a further €300,000.  It is important to remember that the demand is against ADDE, not UKIP.  We believe we will be able to meet these conditions, though it will mean a rather smaller budget next year.

We are now looking closely at our legal remedies, despite the time and cost implications, because we fear that failure to challenge these outrageous actions will be wrongly interpreted in some quarters as an admission of guilt.

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