Speech to UKIP conference

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Ladies & Gentlemen, Colleagues,

This is shaping up to be a great Party Conference. It is our first Conference since our great victory in the Brexit Referendum. It is the Conference where we say farewell to Party Leader Nigel Farage, and greet new Party Leader Diane James.

Let me first of all add my voice to all the tributes which have already been paid to Nigel. Every one of us in this hall played a part in the Brexit Campaign, but I very much doubt that we should have won it without Nigel’s tireless efforts, both during the campaign, and during the two decades when he led and inspired and nurtured the Party.

Nigel will be an incredibly tough act to follow, but we wish Diane James every success as the new Party Leader. She has a tough job to do, but she has the skills, the character, the determination and the media savvy to succeed, and I am sure that Diane can count on the support of all of us in this Hall, and throughout the Party, in the task she has undertaken.

Diane will be making her own decisions and her own appointments for policy spokesmen for the Party, and I shall be happy to pass on my responsibility for industry and energy to whomever she chooses to appoint. But I have had the privilege of speaking for the Party on these issues for the past four and a half years, so perhaps I may take ninety seconds of your time to outline a few key thoughts for future energy policy.

First nuclear. I have always been convinced that nuclear energy must be a key element in a rational British energy policy, and initially I welcomed the decision to proceed with Hinkley C. But I have become increasingly concerned about the costs. Nuclear power is potentially cheap over the lifetime of a reactor. Yet we have struck a deal which makes nuclear energy as expensive as off-shore wind – and that at a time when fossil fuel prices are trending downwards. Add to that the increasing security concerns about the Chinese involvement, and I’m afraid we have to say that Hinkley C is a bad deal for Britain. My strong advice to my successor would be “Nuclear Yes: Hinkley No”.

Then renewables. I and the Party have been resolutely opposed to wind and solar, for a whole range of reasons, but mostly because they represent a threat both to affordability, and to security of supply. That is still true today, but we need to watch developments closely. The costs of both solar and wind are reducing. The industry is claiming “grid parity” for renewables. They are wrong to do so, because intermittency imposes additional costs which they mostly choose to ignore. But equally there are rapid developments in large-scale energy storage. Today, we do not yet have the massive storage capacity which would overcome the intermittency problem – but in ten years’ time, we may well have it.

This does not mean that we are wrong to resist renewables today. If I’m right that renewables will become economically viable, with reduced costs and massive storage capacity, say by 2025, we shall still look back and ask why we squandered huge resources covering the country with equipment which, from that future vantage point, will look hopelessly clunky, old-fashioned and inefficient.

Then gas. It was Labour Statesman Aneurin Bevan (those were the days when the Labour Party actually had statesmen) who said “Britain is an island made mainly of coal and surrounded by fish” – and Conference, we expect to get those fish back following Brexit! But if he were here today, Bevan might well say “An island built on gas and surrounded by fish”.

I know that there are real concerns about shale gas amongst the public – and perhaps in our Party – and that is not surprising given the torrent of negative propaganda surrounding the technology. But an independent Britain needs independent energy, and we cannot ignore the potential under our feet. If the shale gas reserves are anywhere near some of the estimates, then the impact on the economy, on prosperity, on jobs, on our energy security, our balance of payments and our tax revenues will be dramatic. It would be irresponsible to ignore so big an opportunity.

But let’s return to the main theme of our conference today. Brexit, and our amazing victory.

During the referendum campaign I was always careful to warn of possible economic volatility around the Brexit vote, and Conference, I’ll be honest. I anticipated that if we won, there would be months, perhaps years, of bad headlines. I thought that perhaps our main task after the vote would be to keep reassuring people that the benefits of Brexit would come through eventually, and that we had to grit our teeth during the economic upheaval of disengagement. And let’s be clear – there will be bad news as well as good as we move forward to liberation from Brussels.

But the news so far is better than my wildest dreams. There’s been no emergency Budget. Mortgage rates have not rocketed. House prices have not slumped. The Footsie is ahead of its pre-Brexit level. High-street spending is up. Confidence has recovered in services and manufacturing. Cars are selling. There is a tourist boom in London and across the country. Hotels, bars and restaurants are full (and that’s not just Kippers celebrating).

Countries around the world, frustrated in their efforts to negotiate with the EU, are queuing up to talk trade deals with a newly independent UK. Yes, the Pound is down – but that has proved a tonic for exports, with our balance of payments deficit down. And most economists believed that the Pound was over-valued and needed an adjustment.

So what has suffered from Brexit? I’ll tell you. The reputation of George Osborne. And the Treasury. And Mark Carney at the Bank of England. And the IMF. And President Obama. And assorted banks, consultants, accounting firms and rating agencies. They all got it wrong.

Some of the whining Remainians are calling for a Second Referendum. But what could they say? Their whole case was based on Project Fear. The sky would fall if we voted to leave. But the sky didn’t fall. Project Fear has imploded. It has vanished in a puff of smoke. They have no case to argue.

On social media, some voices are saying that now we’ve won, UKIP can pack up and go home. Mission accomplished. No more to be done. Some suggest that UKIP MEPs should resign in a body, in a great gesture of triumphant hubris.

But colleagues remember that we may have voted for Brexit. But today as we speak, the UK is still a fully paid-up member of the EU. Still subject to EU law. Still paying billions for the privilege of membership. And with a Prime Minister who insists that Brexit means Brexit – but seems uncertain what Brexit means. So let’s tell her.

Brexit means independence. It means we will no longer be subject to EU laws and policies. We will pay nothing to the EU budget. We will control our own borders and our own immigration. And our own fisheries. And as a strong and independent nation, we will negotiate trade terms on a similar basis with the EU as we will with America, and China, and any other country. We will not accept the Swiss or the Norwegian models, and their dodgy compromises with Brussels.

So our job is not finished. We have to hold Theresa May’s kitten-heels to the fire, and make sure there is no backsliding.

I occasionally read a little poetry or history, and though I’m not a religious man, I recently found a prayer of Sir Francis Drake which fits the bill today. He faced the Spanish Armada – possibly the greatest military machine the world had yet seen — but they say he insisted on finishing his game of bowls on Plymouth Ho before going down to blow the European fleet out of the water. Sir Francis prayed:

Oh Lord God, When though givest it to thy servants to endeavour any great matter, grant us to know that it is not the beginning, but the continuing of the same unto the end, until it be thoroughly finished, which yieldeth the true glory”. Colleagues, we have won a great battle, but the war won’t be won until Britain is independent again.

I said to begin with that we owe a great debt of gratitude to Nigel Farage. Not just we in this hall today, but the whole party, and indeed the whole country. But perhaps, just perhaps, the whole of Europe will also be in his debt. Be in no doubt, colleagues, that our Brexit victory has inspired other movements across Europe. The Swedish Democrats — we have Peter Lundgren at our Conference today. The German AfD. In Italy, the Five Star Movement. The Freedom Party in Austria. The Visegrad Group in Eastern Europe, which is in revolt against the EU’s migrant plans.

Let me close with one last quotation, this time from William Pitt the Younger in his last public speech in the City of London in 1805, just after the victory in the Battle of Trafalgar. He said “England has saved herself by her exertions, and will, as I trust, save Europe by her example”.

Colleagues, like Martin Luther King, I too have a dream. A dream of a free and prosperous Europe of democratic sovereign states linked solely by free trade and voluntary intergovernmental cooperation. I believe that that dream is closer to achievement now than ever in my lifetime.

And if it comes about, much of the credit will be due to this Party. To UKIP. We did it. Well done, colleagues, well done.

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Fossil fuels: How the UK made the wrong call

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The underlying assumption of British energy policy for recent years – at least since the disastrous Climate Change Act 2008 – has been that as “Peak Oil” approaches and supplies of fossil fuels are depleted, prices will inevitably rise Even though renewables prices look high today (and remain high if you factor in the costs of intermittency), they would look cheap in ten or twenty years’ time.  Only five MPs in Westminster had the sense and courage to oppose the 2008 Act, and they deserve to be remembered by posterity.  They were Ann Widdecombe, Christopher Chope, Peter Lilley, Philip Davies and Andrew Tyrie.

It seemed a reasonable assumption in the Zeitgeist of the times – after all, were not those green NGOs (most funded by you, through the European Commission) constantly talking about “Peak Oil”?  Was it not obvious that the world’s supplies of fossil fuels were finite, and that even our much vaunted North Sea oil and gas reserves were running down?

No, it transpires, fossil fuels are not running out – or at least not in the sort of timescales that matter to politicians or industries.  Maybe in two hundred years, fossil fuels will be scarce and expensive.  But that’s a bit like a charcoal burner in 1750 worrying whether charcoal would run out by 1950 – and having no way to anticipate Calder Hall.

On Wednesday I attended a lunch-time briefing from a very senior and very well-informed power company executive.  The event took place under Chatham House rules, so (as my old mother used to say) “no names, no pack-drill”.  But it is clear that the world is awash with oil and gas.  For the last thirty years (we heard) new oil discoveries have been coming in at twice the rate of consumption.  New gas discoveries have come in – massive shale gas resources in the USA, gas in the Med basin, and even in the UK if we have the courage to drill.

At the moment, Russia has a quasi-monopoly with its gas pipe to Europe.  But that is not set to last.  More and more LNG is becoming available.  The USA, which long banned oil and gas exports, is now exporting, and LNG terminals are popping up all over the place.  LNG is intrinsically more expensive than piped gas, with the costs of compression/liquefaction at one end, and re-gassing at the other.  But in an amusing twist, some of the LNG re-gassing terminals may not need to be used at all – except as a bargaining counter with the Russians (and other piped gas suppliers).

The Russians can use their quasi-monopoly to demand extortionate prices for their gas – which is, by the way, very cheap indeed to extract.  But if the European buyer can say “I’m not paying that price because LNG is cheaper”, then the Russians have to bring their price down, or lose the business.

There exists an interesting parallel between Russian gas and Saudi oil.  Each is a very low-cost, high volume producer.  Each is now challenged by competition – LNG for gas (as well as Mediterranean and other sources) – and US shale oil for Saudi oil.  Both Russia and Saudi have low cost production, and can afford to compete – though at lower prices and margins than they’re accustomed to.  Each sets a high priority on maintaining market share.  Each will have to reduce prices to maintain volume.

So we may or may not seek to reduce fossil fuel use for other reasons, but we certainly won’t be reducing it (at least not for decades) because of availability and prices.  Terrible news for Greenpeace, but great news for the average motorist.  And the average Western economy.

The other key point to emerge from the briefing was that although through superhuman and vastly expensive efforts the EU is starting to get CO2 emissions under control, it is projected to be down to 8% of global emissions in a few years’ time.  So no further action in the EU will have a significant impact.  Meantime other countries – especially China and India – are building coal capacity as if it were going out of style.  Our speaker seemed to share my view that the Paris COP21 Climate Accord is scarcely worth the paper it’s written on.  Greens will insist that China is prioritising renewables.  It’s certainly investing in renewables, but it’s building coal-fired plants as well, and mitigating the local air pollution effect by putting new coal-powered plants in Mongolia.

One other little aperçu.  We are using a lot of palm oil from Malaysia and Indonesia to make bio-diesel.  It seems that those countries previously used palm-oil for energy production, but in many cases have now turned to coal as they export their palm oil – thus utterly undermining the logic of biofuels.  The European institutions are grappling with Indirect Land Use Change, but have yet to get to grips with indirect substitution of coal for oil.

And the British economy?  We’ve been betrayed by the facile assumption that fossil fuel prices can only go up.  We’re stuck with hugely expensive electricity from renewables (and Hinkley C if it goes ahead), while the rest of the world hones its competitiveness with cheap oil and gas.  And with less than 2% of global emissions coming from the UK, our massive sacrifice will make not a scrap of difference to the climate – even if the alarmists turn out to be right about CO2.

 

 

 

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European Parliament report displays extraordinary hubris – Roger Helmer MEP

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Post-Referendum Debrief August 26th

Article 50 to be triggered early next year?

According to a report in The Guardian Article 50 may be triggered in early 2017.

The report states that leading Brexit campaigner and former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith claims members of the cabinet, including Theresa May, are keen to start the formal process of leaving the European Union early in 2017.

Hew was reported as saying Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty should be triggered in the first quarter of the new year to provide focus and a two-year deadline for Brexit negotiations.

Key figures are keen to get the ball rolling – Brexit means Brexit after all. The quicker we trigger the process, the quicker we can reach independence.

Brexit ‘shock’ fades

A piece in The Independent says UK consumer confidence rose the most in more than three years this month as the initial ‘shoc’k from the Brexit vote faded.

An index of sentiment by YouGov and the Centre for Economics and Business Research jumped to 109.8 from 106.6 in July, which was a three-year low.

So no doom and gloom there then? But wait a minute – Stephen Harmston, head of reports at YouGov is quoted as saying: “For all the talk of doom and gloom – both in the months leading up to the referendum and in the days following it – most consumers have yet to feel much tangible impact of the vote.”

He then goes on to say: “Everything could change once details of the deal to leave the EU emerge and the process of extracting ourselves from the Union become a reality.”

Meanwhile those of us confident in Britain will continue to build a strong, stable economy to prove the doubters wrong.

People were offered a choice!

So says John Humphreys in a clash with Labour leader hopeful Owen Smith, who has, of course called for a second referendum.

The broadcaster said: “So what you’re saying to 17million people – 17,410,742 – what you’re saying to them is ‘sorry we didn’t like the way you voted last time, we’ll have another referendum’.” 

Exactly. Smith’s call for a second vote is outrageous. We have moved on – the public isn’t stupid. It voted OUT. Now let’s get on with it.

Post-Brexit tourism boost

The media today also focuses on The Prime Minister’s pledge that Brexit will create ‘real opportunities for growth’ in the tourism sector as she announced a new £40m fund for tourism projects across the country.

She said: “The British people’s decision to leave the European Union creates real opportunities for growth and we will work in close partnership with the tourism industry, to ensure it continues to thrive as negotiations on the UK’s exit progress.” 

It will be a shot in the arm to our tourism trade and contrasts with myy previous debrief which looked at the problems France was having with tourism .

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Post-Referendum Debrief August 24th

When Brexit doesn’t mean Brexit!

Labour leadership ‘hopeful’ Owen Smith has said if he is elected, the party will oppose triggering Article 50 until the Government commits to a second vote.

With a blatant disregard for the will of the people (the UK voted to leave the EU by 52 per cent to 48 per cent), Mr Smith is quoted on the BBC’s website as saying, “It would be irresponsible of Theresa May to simply trigger Article 50 and sleepwalk out of the deal. Labour still believes that we should be a part of the European Union.

“Under my leadership, Labour won’t give the Tories a blank cheque.

“We will vote in Parliament to block any attempt to invoke Article 50 until Theresa May commits to a second referendum or a general election on whatever EU exit deal emerges at the end of the process.”

With the current Labour leader seemingly unsure where he stands, the whole party seems somewhat confused about what it really believes, as well as the democratic process.

Demand for new homes has soared since the referendum 

A report in The Daily Mail reveals demand  for new homes has soared since Britain voted to leave the EU.

Persimmon, which specialises in family homes, said the number visiting its sites and reserving a home has jumped by a fifth since the referendum.

That somewhat defies the doom and gloom forecasts from the former Chancellor and the rest of the Project Fear team?

The developer said reservations of homes since July 1 were up 17 per cent on the same period last year and Persimmon, whose brands include Charles Church and Westbury, also posted bumper results for the first six months of the year. Profits were up 29 per cent to £352.3m.

Meanwhile, in a separate report, HM Revenue and Customs showed the housing market held steady after the EU referendum.

French tourism blow

An intersting read in The Daily Express today – it reports one million fewer visitors went to the French capital in the first six months of 2016 compared to the year before, sparked by terror and safety fears, as well as claims the chic city is dirty and blighted by striking workers.

The 6.4 per cent drop has cost £644m (€750) in lost revenue in just half a year.

Mind you, the country still remains the most popular tourist destination in the world, attracting 84.5m visitors last year with 16m headed for Paris.

More migrant problems

Thousands of Chechen migrants are slipping into Germany through an unmanned Polish crosspoint normally used for businessmen and tourists.

The Daily Express reports that Germany shut down border crossings into the country from the western Balkan migrant route into south Germany after 1.1 million refugees entered last year after the Government’s open door policy was introduced.

In reaction to the closures the migrant route has now moved east through Poland, which shares the largest border with Germany – leaving the nation open to terrorists entering the state.

Official statistics reveal the number of illegal crossings has catapulted out of control between the twinned towns of Germany’s Frankfurt an der Oder, east of Berlin in Brandenburg state, and Poland’s Slubice, which are linked by an unmanned bridge over the Oder river.

And this quote from a German federal police officer says it all –  “We have no idea if they stay in Germany or if they travel on to other countries. “We simply have no idea.”

 

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Phobia and Professor Merrifield

I had an amusing exchange of Tweets today with a constituent of mine, a certain Professor Michael Merrifield of Nottingham University.  He is a Professor of Astronomy – but he seems to be very knowledgeable about any other subject you care to mention.  And he is committed to left-liberal, right-on, politically-correct views almost to the point of self-parody.  I have had exchanges with him on Twitter several times, and it is flattering to think that he is able to devote so much time to the study and discussion of my observations.

Today, on the subject of Islamophobia, I Tweeted “A phobia is an irrational fear. Given recent atrocities, I don’t think that fear of Islamists is necessarily irrational”.  The good Professor replied: “Fear of the many due to the evil of the few is an irrational phobia” (note the tautology – not so good from an academic). “Stirring up such fears is worse”.  Given the recent sequence of appalling and indiscriminate Islamist attacks in which hundreds of people have died, plus the assaults on women in Germany and Sweden, I don’t think there’s any question of “stirring up such fears”.  They are entirely reasonable fears, and most commentators agree that it is only a matter of time before we experience similar attacks in the UK.

In reply to another participant (“The G-Man”), Merrifield says “I disagree, but that is arguably not phobic. This, however, is: (quoting my original Tweet, above)”.  Later, for good measure Merrifield adds “Roger Helmer is very welcome to express all his phobias: I would much prefer his irrationality remain in the public eye”.  Amusing, this, since so far as I know I have no phobias at all (though I’m not keen on spiders).  I responded “You are desperately trying to hang the label ‘phobic’ on anyone who disagrees with you. But it won’t wash”.  To which Merrifield weakly retorts “No anyone, just phobics”.

I have run into trouble previously over the misuse of this term “phobia”, which quite simply means “an irrational fear”.  I took considerable stick on social media for questioning the use of the term “homophobia”.  Of course no one doubts that homosexuals are subject to prejudice, discrimination and even on occasion violence, and all decent people (yes Michael, that includes me) will deprecate and condemn such attitudes and behaviour.  But this is not about substance, but about semantics.  It’s about the proper use of the term “phobia”.  Prejudice against homosexuals exists, but I know of no evidence that it is motivated by fear, and therefore it cannot be a phobia.  Much resentment is caused by the way the word “homophobic” is applied indiscriminately as a term of abuse to anyone who dares question the current modish political correctness in this area.

The problem with the use of “phobia” in “Islamophobia” is not (as with “homophobia”) about the element of fear, but about the element of irrationality.  I have argued that fears of Islamic terrorism are perfectly rational and rooted in experience.

Merrifield’s reference to “Fear of the many due to the evil of the few” is what I call “The IRA argument”.  It goes like this.  All IRA terrorists (more or less), are, or were, both Irish and Roman Catholic.  But it does not and cannot follow that all Irish people and/or all Catholics are terrorists, or sympathise with terrorists.  On the contrary, my experience suggests that the great majority of Irish people, and of Catholics, abominate the tactics of the IRA, and utterly repudiate them.  Is there a read-across here to Islamic terrorism?  I fear not, for various reasons.

  • Islamic terrorists have a well-funded and widespread international organisation, ISIL, which purports to be a state, and has indeed some of the attributes of a state.  It has an aggressive programme of recruitment and proselytisation, and there is a huge Muslim diaspora in which its recruitment takes place
  • ISIL is overtly dedicated to the overthrow of established, democratic Western governments and their replacement by a worldwide Islamic Caliphate, implementing Sharia Law for all.  However unrealistic this objective may be, they are clearly serious about pursuing it
  • ISIL urges, and implements, the murder of non-believers, and especially of homosexuals, and it carries out and promotes the large-scale mutilation of women.  If Professor Merrifield wishes to challenge assaults on human rights, he might like to start in Raqqa.  But promotion of female genital mutilation is not limited to ISIL.  A senior Muslim cleric in Russia has just called for mass FGM.
  • We have just seen the belated jailing of hate preacher Anjem Choudary  It is credibly reported that a number of mosques in Britain have provided a platform for hate preachers who spread their message of intolerance, alienation and violence.  It is difficult to exonerate the faith of Islam entirely for the behaviour of Islamic terrorists when Islam’s places of worship are used in this way.  There are also reports that some mosques have been recruitment centres for ISIL.
  • Following Choudary’s prison sentence, social media are reportedly awash with hate videos from him and his disciples.  Presumably someone out there is watching them.  Are they part of Merrifield’s “the few”?
  • Reputable opinion studies amongst British Muslims have shown an alarming degree of sympathy with Islamist fighters that runs well into double figure percentages on some measures.  For example more than a quarter of British Muslims sympathised with the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris. (Are they also part of “the few”, Michael?).

Against this background it is impossible to dismiss Islamic terrorism as the work of a handful of deranged individuals.  Merrifield in another Tweet said “Basing a case against a religion on the actions of a small number of terrorists is phobic”. No Michael. It’s not phobic – it’s just a bad line of argument, which is why I didn’t and wouldn’t do it.  I spent four years of my earlier business career in a Muslim country – Malaysia – and have a high regard for many of the Muslims I met and worked with there.

I absolutely defend the right of any individual to hold any religious beliefs of their choosing (provided they don’t directly infringe the rights of others – as for example the Muslim position on apostasy), or to have no religion.  I am not making a case against any religion.  But I am making a case against mass immigration of Muslims from Syria and elsewhere, because they have a view of human rights which is incompatible with Western values, and represents a threat to our society.  And because while only a few of them may be active terrorists, it is likely that a significant proportion will have some sympathy with Islamism.  And most of them will have attitudes to human rights, women’s rights and minorities which are just plain unacceptable and dangerous.

 

 

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Post-Brexit Debrief August 19th

Post-Brexit sales boom

In the first round of hard data post-Brexit, retail sales have boomed – up 1.4% against an estimate of 0.2%.  Amongst a raft of positive economic news, the Telegraph says “Shoppers shrugged off June’s shock Brexit vote”.   The Express says “Brexit Boom: Retail sales grew post-referendum as voters went on a shopping spree”.   Both the Pound and the FTSE responded positively to the news.  Another Project Fear prognostication is overturned.   Indeed the Mail headlines “Project Cheer”

Calais Mayor admits violence is “out of control”

The Express headlines “Send in army to stop migrant violence”.  It reports that the Mayor of Calais has finally admitted that the situation is out of control, and has called for more support from the civil authority.

It says that British truckers have called for the Army to be deployed , while a separate piece cites UKIP defence spokesman Mike Hookem MEP, who says “The French government clearly need to bring in the military to help resolve this situation”.

Meantime Merkel defends her “open-door” policy

 

Under increasing political pressure at home ahead of general election next year, Angela Merkel has sought to defend her open-door migrant policy, against increasing public resistance.  She is arguing that Jihadist violence had come to Germany before the policy was in place.  Maybe so, but the policy has brought vastly more numbers, of whom some are Jihadists and many may be sympathisers.  The anti-immigration anti-EU party AfD seems likely to benefit at the polls.

Merkel won’t be helped by reports that migrants in Germany are refusing to work, on the preposterous grounds that they are “Angela Merkel’s guests”.

“City abandons hope of full Single Market access”

The FT reports that senior figures in the City are studying the post-Brexit options, and have rightly recognised that “full Single Market access” (which would almost certainly include free movement and EU budget contributions) is not an option – indeed it would hardly be Brexit at all.  Nor do they seem to favour “the Norway option” which also involves subjection to EU rules plus EU budget contributions.  They are looking at  the same sort of “sectoral agreement” which the Swiss have (similar structure, but of course not exactly the same sectoral deals).

The fact is that the UK has a large trade deficit in goods with the continent, which gives us a strong negotiating position.  But we have an advantage on trade in services.  It seems to me we should say “OK – we’ll give you free access to our market – but in exchange for your advantage on trade in goods, we want an agreement for trade in services – and particularly for “passporting” of financial services, which is at the heart of the City’s concerns”.

Frankfurt eyes UK financial services

The Express reports the thoughts of Thomas Schaefer, Finance Minister in the State of Hesse (which includes Frankfurt), who openly admits that the German city is seeking to attract financial firms from London.

You can’t blame them for that – it’s just common sense.  But I believe they may be underestimating the strengths of the City.  The depth and breadth of financial expertise and support services create a “critical mass” which will be difficult to replicate elsewhere. Meantime (see above) the City, in collaboration with the British government, is getting ready for the Brexit negotiations.

EU students rush for UK universities

The Telegraph reports a surge in applications from EU students to attend UK universities ahead of Brexit – up 11% to a new record. Several thoughts here: education is a major “invisible export” for the UK, and any post-Brexit immigration policy must allow foreign students to come – while ensuring that they also go home afterwards.  But it is also a scandal that non-British EU students can claim the UK’s generous student loans – and in many cases fail to repay them.  Ever.

One of the “benefits” of EU membership touted by the Remainians was the opportunity for British students to study across the EU.  Indeed.  They can go to Strasbourg, or Stockholm, or the Sorbonne.  But they can also go to Sydney or Singapore or San Francisco – with the benefits of sunshine and the English language.  The idea that you can’t travel abroad unless you subject yourself to supra-national governance is palpably absurd.

Italian Referendum “Could be bigger than Brexit”

Italy faces its own referendum in October.  It’s not strictly speaking an EU referendum — it’s about constitutional changes. But in the current anti-government, anti-Brussels mood, it could well be an escape-valve for voter resentment, possibly leading to the fall of the Italian government.  Italy currently faces huge problems of debt, youth unemployment, growth and productivity.  The Five Star Movement, which could benefit from the result, is demanding a referendum on €uro membership.  Some commentators see this as a trigger for a wider EU break-up.

EU woos Algeria

The EU is reportedly cosying up to Algeria, in an attempt to secure gas supplies and also to help to contain the migrant crisis.

Comedy of Errors

The New European” (hands up who’s bought a copy – no? – I thought not) headlines “Brexit turns the Fringe into a comedy of errors”.   Other papers have highlighted the use made of the Brexit vote by comedians in Edinburgh.

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