Post referendum debrief July 25th

Hammond: “A realistic negotiating position”

The FT reports that Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, speaking at the G20 meeting, has said that the UK must “adopt a realistic negotiating position” with the EU.  So far, so sensible. No one should enter negotiations with an unrealistic negotiating position.  But reading between the lines, it looks as though Hammond is running up the white flag.  Clearly he feels that we can’t retain “access to the Single Market” (see below) unless we accept most of the trammels of EU membership.  He doesn’t spell it out, but sceptics will fear that he’s prepared to accept free movement, EU budget contributions and acceptance of EU Directives and Regulations as part of the deal.

What he should do is to invoke Article 50, and then invite Brussels to discuss what it needs to do to retain tariff-free access to the UK market.  Show some back-bone, Philip!

The Single Market

We are constantly hearing Ministers and business leaders insisting on the importance of “access to the Single Market” (though to be fair to Philip Hammond, he’s also on record as insisting that we must leave the single market – it’s not clear whether he meant “This is policy”, or “This is the damage that Brexit has done”).  It’s become a mantra, almost an article of faith, for many in the debate.  It’s also, perhaps deliberately, a massive ambiguity.  So let’s try to deconstruct it.

The EU’s Single Market is an old-fashioned Customs Union, overlaid by massive and damaging levels of regulation and bureaucracy.  The conventional wisdom is that it makes trade within the Single Market much easier – though there are exporters who say that exporting to the rest of the world involves less hassle than exporting within the EU.  But it’s the concept of “access” that embodies the ambiguity.

All trading nations have access to the Single Market: The plain fact is that all trading nations have access to the Single Market.  All that varies is the terms of trade.  The three biggest suppliers of goods into the Single Market are the USA, Russia and China.  They are not members of the EU.  They currently have no preferential trade terms with the EU.  They are simply third-party, arm’s length suppliers – yet they are hugely successful.  Britain would also trade successfully with the EU if we were in the same position after Brexit – and that is absolutely the worst case we can envisage.  All likely outcomes are better.

Many countries have bilateral Free Trade Deals with the EU: Several dozen countries have established Free Trade Agreements with the EU (I always think of South Korea as my prime example, as I spent a number of years running businesses there).  These countries also have “access to the Single Market”, but on tariff-free terms.

A few countries have quasi-membership terms: A few countries, notably Switzerland and Norway, have quasi-membership terms with the EU, giving them tariff-free market access but subjecting them to budget contributions, EU regulations and free movement.  Yet these few examples were constantly quoted by the Remain side in the referendum – because they are so obviously a bad deal.

28 countries are EU members: 28 countries including the UK are currently EU members (with more, including Turkey, queuing up to join).  These have full tariff-free market access – but are subject in full to all the negatives of EU membership.

We have just voted against the fourth option – membership.  Clearly we don’t want the Swiss/Norwegian option, which is the worst of both worlds.  We could well live with the first option (the tariffs we would pay on exports to the EU would be less than half our net budget contributions).  Ideally we should press for the second option – a straightforward free trade deal.  And there are increasing signs that we could get such a deal.  The phrase we keep hearing from our continental partners is “a mutually beneficial relationship”.  Since  an FTA offers mutual benefits, that seems the most likely option.

But above all we must not be hoodwinked into accepting free movement or EU budget contributions as a price for “access to the Single Market”, which we will have anyway.

Theresa May visits Northern Ireland to discuss borders: There is a genuine issue with regard to the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. No one wants to see border controls or customs posts being reinstated.  It is worth noting that Option Two above (total independence for the UK, plus a UK/EU free trade deal) would eliminate the need for customs posts on the border.

Anger at EU deal to halt Brexit

Meantime both the Express and the Guardian report a possible deal being cooked up in Brussels to offer the UK a seven-year “emergency brake” on immigration, with the implication that on that basis we should remain EU members.  Worryingly, the Express describes this proposal as “Merkel, Hollande and May’s plan to keep Britain in the EU”.

This might have been a sensible negotiating offer from the EU when David Cameron was seeking his “renegotiation”.  Perhaps they now realise that their stonewalling was counter-productive, and led directly to the Brexit vote.  But the Brussels plan would leave Britain, after seven years, still locked in to the dysfunctional EU, and no better off than today.  It absolutely is not Brexit, and nothing like it.

Theresa May has emphatically stated that “Brexit means Brexit”.  Sadly, she hasn’t quite clarified what she does mean by the word – but it can’t be simply a minor concession on free movement.  Let’s be clear.  We want to be an independent, democratic global trading nation, able to make our own laws, our own trade deals, to control our own borders, and to be subject only to rules made in Westminster, not rules made in Brussels.  Far from being “a leap in the dark”, this is in fact the status of most countries, most of the time.  Not so much a leap into oblivion as a return to normality.

Terror in Germany

Following the recent incident in which a Syrian refugee blew himself up at Ansbach near Nuremburg, Angela Merkel has faced criticism for her slow reaction to terrorist events in Germany – and also, by implication, for her open-door refugee policy.  But there is no room forschadenfreude or complacency.  We are all at risk, and vigilance must be the order of the day.

US cools to TTIP without the UK

Many in the UK have deep reservations about the proposed TTIP deal between the EU and the USA, and some of the proposed provisions of the deal would have been unacceptable.  Nonetheless it is interesting that the Express reports reduced US interest in the deal after the Brexit vote.  It quotes a US source saying “The EU without the UK is like the USA without California”.  The EU’s chief negotiator has even been led to suggest (presumably through gritted teeth) that the post-Brexit UK might be invited to participate in the deal despite having left the EU.  Whether we’d want to accept is another matter.  I personally believe that the UK stands a good chance of getting its own UK/US trade deal, on terms that suit us, not Brussels, rather more quickly than the EU will get TTIP.

Erasmus under threat?

The Telegraph reports claims from academia that “British students could be excluded from the Erasmus student exchange programme” after Brexit (remember that academia was united against Brexit, imagining that the grant funding from Brussels would not be replaced in the UK). They fail to mention that several non-EU countries (like Iceland) participate in Erasmus. Other countries including Albania, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Kosovo, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, Palestine, Russia, Serbia, Syria, Switzerland, Tunisia and Ukraine are also able to take part on a limited basis.  Given that the UK has some of the best universities in the world, and that many thousands of EU students come to the UK, it is inconceivable that a post-Brexit Britain would not be involved.

Turkish reprisals

The Express features an Amnesty International report citing the appalling treatment by the Turkish authorities of Turkish soldiers alleged to have been implicated in the recent coup attempt.  Please read, and consider whether Turkey is a suitable candidate for EU membership, and whether it is committed to “European values”.

Guardian makes a record loss

The Guardian, that leading organ of the liberal left, and serial denigrator of our country (I believe it is also the preferred personnel advertising medium of the BBC) has just declared a record loss of £173 million.  Of course we are all in favour of a free press and diverse media – but if it comes to it, I suspect that The Guardian would not be much missed.

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Post-Referendum Debrief July 20th

Sturgeon’s dream in tatters

As we have said all along – Scotland will have to leave the EU along with the rest of the UK.

Today’s Daily Express reports that Nicola Sturgeon’s hopes of Scotland being able to veto the Brexit vote are in tatters!

The paper says it has learnt that a meeting between Scottish UKIP MEP David Coburn and European Parliament President Martin Schulz has confirmed that Scotland will have to leave the EU with the rest of the UK.

It came after the SNP First Minister had held meetings with senior EU figures to try to get a separate Scottish deal from the Brexit talks after a majority of Scots voted to Remain.

Mr Coburn told the paper: “President Schulz is no more interested in ‘Balkanising’ the UK than Great Britain is in ‘Balkanising’ the EU – especially Spain and the Baltic States.” 

IMF admits the economy is growing

The papers are also full today of reports that the IMF has been forced to admit the economy is growing, despite the doom and gloom of ‘Project Fear’.

Officials are facing a humiliating climbdown after claiming Britain would face a recession if thecountry opted to leave the European Union.

But now the IMF expects the British economy to grow by 1.7 per cent this year and 1.3 per cent in 2017. The forecast puts the UK’s economy as the second-fastest growing economy in 2016 among the G7 industrialised nations, second only to the US.

As I bogged a few months ago  The IMF has warned of “severe consequences” from Brexit.   This comes as no surprise, for two reasons.

First of all, the IMF is widely seen as a cheer-leader for Brussels.  It is largely staffed by Europeans, with close links to the EU institutions.

It has  attracted severe criticism because it has appeared to spend more resources and effort on saving Greece and the €urozone than on its broader global remit.

Indeed frustration with the IMF  was a factor prompting China to create an Asian equivalent, the AIIB.  The current head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, is a former French Foreign Minister. So to paraphrase Mandy Rice Davies, “She would say that, wouldn’t she?”.

The second reason to doubt the IMF’s advice is that it’s frequently wrong – most notably, perhaps, with its recent dire warnings that Osborne’s spending cuts would lead to financial collapse in the UK.  When the opposite happened, it was obliged to eat its words.

Article 50

It is now looking likely Article 50 will be triggered early next year 

The Guardian, for one, reports Theresa May will warn  Angela Merkel that she needs time to prepare for Brexit, as she heads to Berlin for private talks with the German chancellor.

The new prime minister will fly to Berlin after facing her first prime minister’s questions on Wednesday.

Merkel and May’s working dinner is likely to be dominated by discussion of Britain leaving the EU but they are also likely to touch on the trading relationship between the two countries, the migration crisis and Islamist terrorism.

I’d like to see Article 50 ASAP. But I do start to get a sense that the UK is imposing its own timetable – not being pushed around!

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Post-Referendum Debrief July 19th

Prime Minister vows to make a success of Brexit 

Yes, Brexit does mean Brexit, and yes we all hope and of course, need, the Prime Minister to make a success of this new opportunity and challenge we have.

In a piece in The Guardian, Theresa May echoed the social justice tone of her first address at Downing Street last week.

She was quoted as saying: “It will be the responsibility of everyone sitting around the cabinet table to make Brexit work for Britain. And it will also be their duty to deliver success on behalf of everyone in the UK, not just the privileged few. That is why social justice will be at the heart of my government.”

Brexit legality hits the courts

Yes, you read that right. many papers today are carrying the story that a legal challenge to Brexit is about to start – here’s The Independent’s online coverage.

It’s smacks of desperation and worse still, a disregard for the wishes of the majority of those who voted in last month’s referendum.

Merkel muscled out?

An interesting piece in The Daily Express which reports that analysts from the influential EU affairs think tank Votewatch Europe said Germany lacked the diplomatic skills required to hold the balance of power in Brussels.

They studied EU voting patterns over the last seven years and found that Germany was routinely outvoted more than France in the chamber.  Since 2009 Germany has been outvoted 42 times, especially on environment, internal market, transport and civil liberties, while France suffered only three parliamentary defeats.

Interestingly, VoteWatch Europe director and co-founder Doru Peter Frantescu said: “While Germany is a huge economic power and one of the main drivers of EU integration, the politics in the EU Council is less about the economy and more about diplomacy and negotiation practices, which lead to building coalitions to form majorities or blocking minorities.

“What a country needs in the council in order to be successful is to find allies with similar positions. In this regard, decision-making data since 2009 indicates that France is in a better position to build majorities than Germany.”

Seems it’s all change wherever we look at the moment.



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Post-Referendum Debrief July 18th

‘Made in Wales’ farming possible after Brexit

According to the BBC,  Brexit gives the chance for a “made-in-Wales” approach to farming in the future, Rural Affairs Secretary Lesley Griffiths has said.

She will be meeting senior figures from the agricultural and food industries at the Royal Welsh Show near Builth Wells.

Ms Griffiths said she had seen a “real readiness to work together”. With farming fully devolved, Ms Griffiths said it was a chance to create policies and regulations “tailor made for Wales’ unique needs”.

She told BBC Wales she wanted to hear about the best of EU regulations but she was aware of concern among farmers who voted for Britain to leave over “red tape”.

Short, sharp shock?

Meanwhile, The Guardian warns that that the UK economy will have to weather a short, sharp shock, with Brexit uncertainty holding back both business investment and consumer spending, according to a leading economic forecasting group.

Severe dents to confidence mean the post-referendum economy is on “a very different path” from three months ago, said the EY Item Club, a forecasting group which uses Treasury modelling. It has slashed its predictions of economic growth for the next few years.

In April, Item said the UK’s GDP would grow by 2.6 per cent in 2017 – a figure it now expects to be barely 0.4 per cent. It expects the pound to have fallen 15 per cent in a year by the end of 2016, and decline further through the decade.

All doom and gloom with remnants of ‘Project Fear’ but things are steadying and the quicker we trigger article 50 the better.

UK will build trading zone ten times bigger than the EU

On a more positive note, The Daily Express reports that Britain already has ten trade deals lined with economic powerhouses around the world.

The new Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox has been tasked with negotiating the global trade deals that will make Britain “a beacon of open trade around the world”.

Last night he revealed that he will be allowed to cherry pick the brightest and the best from each Government department to ensure he heads the strongest team possible to advance Britain’s interests.

Nicola Sturgeon and a Brexit veto?

Lots of news over the weekend that Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP could block the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

If the Scots are foolish enough to vote for independence in the face of rock-bottom oil prices, the loss of Barnett formula largesse, the loss of the sterling and the prospect of a decade of ascension talks before they get re-admitted to the EU (along with compulsory Euro use and Schengen) then more power to them…



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Post-Referendum Debrief July 14th

David Davis: Secretary of State for Brexit!

Theresa May has moved rapidly to appoint her Cabinet, with big jobs for Brexiteers.  David Davis as Secretary of State at the new Brexit department. Boris as Foreign Secretary. Liam Fox at International Trade.

These are positive moves, hailed by Nigel Farage as “inspired choices”.  I have to say that with this news, Brexit seems even more real and tangible than it did in the euphoric aftermath of the Referendum on June 23rd/24th. I can almost taste it. Liberation calls.

It’s wonderful to see David Davis back in harness – and in a key role.  He’s big enough and tough enough to front up to the EU institutions and to get the deal Britain needs.

The Express features “May’s team to battle Brussels”  while the Scottish Daily Mail headlines “Boris is back while Osborne is axed”.  I suspect that few tears will be shed for George.

Of course not all the papers welcomed the appointments. The Mirror headlines “Boris Johnson – Sorry World!”, showing the famous zipwire photo and fearing that Britain could be made a laughing stock. Tim Farron (“Who’s he?” I hear you ask. He’s described as Leader of the Lib Dems) has Tweeted “Johnson will spend his time apologising to nations he’s offended”.

Angela Eagle’s response to the news of Boris Johnson’s appointment is well worth 30 seconds with the video clip.

Owen Smith (again “Who’s he?” – and this time I’m not sure), who is said to be challenging for the Labour Leadership has said that his policy platform will include a call for a second referendum, arguing that many citizens who voted Leave are concerned at recent negative economic reports, and would like to change their minds. He has a point: the legacy of Project Fear has certainly spooked the markets, and any leave voter who expected sunlit uplands on June 24th was over-optimistic.

We always said there would be volatility around the referendum. It’s vital now to steady the ship, and I believe that Johnson and Davis are the men to do it.  And despite my reservations about Theresa May, she deserves credit for those appointments. Allister Heath has a thoughtful piece in the Telegraph welcoming the new Prime Minister’s commitment to Brexit – and the challenges she will face.

And how did Obama react?  “Not at all”, seems to be the answer. Theresa May has received calls from a number of world leaders congratulating her on her appointment, but the Express reports she has been “snubbed” by Obama, who has failed to call her. Oh well.  Maybe he had other things on his mind. Like the US Presidential election.

Signs of a slowdown?

The Telegraph Business News leads with “Signs of a slowdown hit UK economy in the wake of the Brexit vote”  – although much of the report is based on forecasts rather than data (another reflection of Project Fear). Unusually, the Times is rather less negative, speaking of a new interest rate stimulus.

But it also reports criticism of the Bank of England and Mark Carney from the economists at the Institute of Economic Affairs, who say that Carney should not have suggested a rate cut in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote, because doing so merely reinforced concerns created by Project Fear, and played into a narrative of negative economic consequences.  They argue that he should have waited several months to see the real effects of Brexit before reacting.

Meantime the FT reports that the banking industry has criticised J.P. Morgan and its boss Jamie Dimon for the bank’s “deeply unhelpful comments” in the wake of Brexit. It has suggested it might move thousands of jobs out of London.

In any case, we can expect Theresa May’s bold appointments to calm the markets – as her own early coronation also did.

EU Council President Donald Tusk ‘Britain must be punished’

Bend over.  It’s six of the best from the President of the EU Council, Donald Tusk. He’s returned to fighting talk about “punishing” the UK for Brexit – to make sure no other EU member-states have the temerity to follow suit.

At least he’s being honest. The idea that the UK could leave, prosper and set an example to others has always haunted the Brussels apparatchiks.  But his attitude reflects the view of a career politician with little understanding of business and industry. Given the trade imbalance between the UK and EU, Brussels can only punish the UK by accepting even greater damage itself, which it can little afford in the parlous state of the eurozone economy.

As I have said before, the last thing Angela Merkel wants to see is thousands of unemployed German auto workers in Munich and Stuttgart – especially with an election looming. And while Brussels apparatchiks like Tusk seek to salve their bruised egos, wiser heads like Angela Merkel and the head of the German CBI Markus Kerber are being more realistic and speaking of “mutual benefits”.

Strangely ITV is reporting much more constructive comments from Tusk , saying that the UK and EU will remain “the closest of allies” following their “divorce”. Maybe Tusk has a touch of schizophrenia. Or maybe you can’t believe all you read in the papers.

Merkel and the EU Army

Again and again we’re told that the threat of an EU Army was one of the “lies” of the Leave Campaign. Yet here it is again, and Merkel is pressing on with it. Maybe it’s for use against member-states that have the temerity to apply for Article 50.

French fishermen fear for Brexit

The Telegraph reports that French fishermen are concerned at the possible damage to their industry if their access to British waters is restricted after Brexit. They are right to be concerned.   It will be little consolation for them, but they may want to reflect on the benefit they have enjoyed as they have been allowed to plunder a British resource for 43 years.

But the report illustrates the pusillanimous attitude of many in our UK media (and people in authority who should know better) when we read that “British fishermen have been warned of the difficulty of negotiating new arrangements”, while The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations has said: “We can certainly seek to renegotiate quota shares, as well as access arrangements, but it is realistic to expect that there will be a price”.  Whose quotas, for heaven’s sake? They think we have to buy the rights to our own fish?

Hang on a minute, guys.  For a newly-liberated UK, these are our waters under international law. They are our fishery resources.  As an independent country, we won’t need to negotiate anything.  Our starting point is that the fish are ours, and we decide how they will be exploited (and sustained). We may of course choose to offer access to other nations, either long-term or perhaps on a tapered basis.  Then indeed there would be a price – paid by French & Spanish fishermen to the UK.

‘Please don’t be nasty to Spain and Portugal’

In 2015 both Spain and Portugal exceeded the EU’s 3% deficit limit, and could be liable for fines as high as 0.2% of GDP.  But France’s Finance Minister Michel Sapin has appealed to Brussels not to “punish for the sake of punishing”, arguing that the fines would further damage the countries concerned, and do no one any favours.

This situation shows the absurdity of the EU’s construct for monetary union.  First of all we have euro-zone rules which the countries find they can’t achieve. And why can’t they achieve them? Why because of the eurozone itself!  Then we have a system of penalties which is counterproductive.

If they can’t find revenues to cover 97% of their expenditure commitments, how will they pay the fine? Then we note that the fines are discretionary. It is not a rule-based system founded in the rule of law.  It is a system of arbitrary patronage, like some Mediæval Satrapy, where sucking up to the Sultan is the only hope of leniency.

And finally there is the ultimate ignominy of once great nations going cap-in-hand to plead for mercy in Brussels, and of democratically elected governments not allowed to manage their economies. Thank heaven we voted for Brexit.

Airbus joins Siemens: backing Britain after Brexit

In yesterday’s Debrief I noted that having spoken out against Brexit before the Referendum, Siemens has done a quick U-Turn and confirmed that it will remain, and invest, in the UK. Just too late for yesterday’s Debrief came the news that Airbus has made a similar announcement. Fabrice Regier the CEO says “We don’t expect it will affect our operations here where we have 15,000 employees”.

Farage confirms membership surge

Nigel Farage has confirmed that “significant numbers” of disaffected Tory supporters have left their party to join UKIP in the wake of the Conservative Leadership elections. I suppose the Boris/David appointments weren’t merely a sop to eurosceptic Tories?

Perish the thought.

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Post-Referendum Debrief July 13th

Brexit: May just doesn’t get it

“Brexit means Brexit”, says Theresa May.  But does she actually know what Brexit means?  A story in today’s Express suggests not.  May says she will make control of immigration her top demand in her Brexit negotiations with the EU.  But Theresa, Brexit means we’ll be an independent country again.  We don’t have to go cap-in-hand to Brussels to request permission (Please Sir can we have our ball back?) to control immigration.  As an independent nation, we just do it.  That’s what independence – and Brexit – mean.

And Philip Hammond doesn’t get it either.  Here is our Foreign Secretary (and Remain supporter) saying that a Brexit deal will take longer than World War 2 – until 2022, indeed.    Why?  Because it’s such a complicated issue.  He appears to think that Brexit is just a super-charged version of Cameron’s failed “renegotiation”.  In other words, he’s planning to negotiate new conditions of EU membership, or associate membership, or Norway-lite, with free movement (perhaps with cosmetic adjustments), EU budget contributions, and controlled by EU law.

So let me spell it out, for Theresa and Philip.  We invoke Article 50 as soon as possible – say in September.  And on October 2018, we’re out.  We’re a free and independent nation (like most other nations in the world – how scary can that be?).  During those two years, we seek a free trade agreement with the rump-EU.  We shall get it.  Why?  Because Article 50 requires the EU to create favourable trade terms with neighbouring countries.  Because politicians and leading business figures in the EU are already calling for “a mutually beneficial relationship”.  And above all, because we have a huge trade deficit with the Continent, and therefore have a very strong negotiating hand.

There are those who believe that as the months tick by without agreement, and we approach the two year deadline, we will have a weaker and weaker position.  But on the contrary, the EU has more to lose by failing to get a deal.  Does Angela Merkel want to see thousands of unemployed German auto workers in Munich and Stuttgart?  She does not.  In fact the closer we get to the end of the period, the strongerour hand gets.

I firmly believe this will happen in the Two-Year Article 50 period.  But is it a risk? What if we fail?  Then we fall back on WTO rules – exactly the same basis on which dozens of countries (including the USA, China and Russia) trade with the EU – yes – and get access to the Single Market.  And the total annual duty on our exports to the EU would be less than half our current net EU budget contributions.  Even failure to achieve a free trade deal leaves us with a win-win situation.

What about the City?  The doubters and the Remainers say “You may get a Free Trade Deal on goods, but that will leave the City of London – our vital financial services industry – out in the cold”.  But it doesn’t have to.  Given the huge trade imbalance, we should negotiate to include services in our free trade deal, to give a more balanced and proportionate result.  In any case it’s arguable that the City will do better in global markets outside the remit of damaging EU financial regulation.

Let’s bury Project Fear

Now that the succession of Theresa May has been decided, and a big element of uncertainty removed, we’re seeing the economy bouncing back.  The FTSE 100 is in Bull Market territory. The Pound has recovered sharply against the €uro and the dollar.  Siemens, previously opposed to Brexit, has done a smart U-Turn, and committed to further UK investment. And consumer spending is buoyant, with John Lewis reporting strong sales.

Meantime a host of foreign countries have indicated their willingness to enter bilateral trade talks with a newly-liberated Great Britain. It’s a well-worn cliché, but it has rarely been more apposite: We have nothing to fear but fear itself.  Yet the publicly-funded BBC is still desperately trawling for negative stories on Brexit, seeking to vindicate the discredited Project Fear.

For a more measured critique of the post-Brexit economic situation, but from a Remainer’s perspective, try Ben Wright in the Telegraph.

May’s Cabinet

Many of the papers speculate about Theresa May’s Cabinet.  Will she include Brexiteers, and which ones?  Will there be a job for George Osborne?  Or Boris Johnson?  Some report that she is keen to achieve gender balance in the Cabinet.  That’s a fine aspiration, and there are some very capable women to choose from (not least Andrea Leadsom. And Priti Patel).  Perhaps Theresa was inspired by Marks & Spencer, which is setting up an all-women panel to advise it on fashion.

But because there are fewer women than men  in Westminster, there is clearly a smaller talent pool there.  Some names being mentioned cause concern.  Amber Rudd, who as Secretary of State for Energy seems blissfully unaware of the generating capacity crunch that the UK is facing – or of the damage that current climate policies are doing to the UK(and the EU).  And Justine Greening, whose main skill seems to be hosing public money at corrupt régimes and kleptocrats around the world.  Not a prospect that fills me with confidence.

Cameron begs May to preserve the aid budget: As he leaves Downing Street, David Cameron has appealed to his successor to maintain the UK’s extraordinarily profligate and wasteful Foreign Aid budget, which he says is his finest achievement. Few in UKIP will agree.

Keeping the UK together:  the Scottish Daily Mail leads with Ruth Davidson’s warning to May that she must make strenuous efforts to appeal to Scottish voters, and strive to keep the UK united.  .  Where does UKIP stand on this issue?  The clue is in the name: the United Kingdom Independence party.

Labour’s travails continue: The Labour National Executive’s decision to allow Corbyn’s name on the ballot paper in the coming leadership challenge seems guaranteed to ensure that Labour’s civil war continues – and makes a complete split in the party more likely.

Merkel refuses special border deal for Ireland

The Express reports that Merkel has refused to give Irish leader Enda Kenny any assurances of a special deal regarding the border with Northern Ireland.  Kenny was hoping for a “soft border” arrangement that would allow easy passage either way, but Merkel is insisting that it be treated like any other EU border.  Of course after Brexit, Merkel must have no say in how the UK deals with its own borders, but Brussels can make and enforce rules for the Republic.  Perhaps Mr. Kenny should reflect on the benefits of independence.

Greece: Migrants break out of camp and attack police

Greece is having massive problems in dealing with its migrant in-flow.  In this latest incident, hundreds of migrants broke out of a camp on the Isle of Leros and started creating mayhem. .  Locals claim that migrant problems are damaging tourism, while charity workers have left following threats from far-right activists.  It’s worth bearing in mind that Europe’s migrant crisis has not gone away.

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Post-referendum Debrief July 12th

A day of MAYhem

Thus does the Metro greet the morning.  Just about all of the papers lead with the story.  The i: Mayday.  The Sun (on a positive note) “New PM can unite the Tories and deliver Brexit”: The Mail: “Coronation of Theresa”:  The Guardian “May takes fast track to Number Ten”.

The Mirror and the Times look forward.  The Mirror demands a General Election (surely the last thing Britain needs right now), while the Times starts to speculate about May’s first Cabinet. The Express “Make sure you get us out of the EU”  The Morning Star predictably strikes a contrarian note: “Mayday, Mayday”.

Andrea’s shock announcement: We woke up yesterday expecting two months of a bruising Tory leadership campaign. Today we wake up to see the removal vans at Number Ten, and Theresa May in place perhaps tomorrow.  So what motivated Andrea in this decision that so many Brexiteers will deeply regret?  Clearly she had been spooked by the Tory black ops and the vicious personal smears to which she had been (disgracefully) subjected.  But I think that two other factors weighed heavily with her.  First, she knows that the last thing the country needs now is two months of uncertainty and political in-fighting.  Secondly, she knows that even if she won the ballot of party members, she would have to face a hostile parliamentary party that strongly preferred Theresa May.

Andrea Leadsom has characteristically put the needs of the country ahead of her career ambitions, and deserves credit and respect for doing so.  But how is Theresa May going to unite a deeply divided party?  Clearly she must include committed Brexiteers to her cabinet, and especially in the task of delivering Brexit.  She reportedly has a poor relationship with Michael Gove.  Boris has gone uncharacteristically quiet since the referendum – perhaps sulking in his tent?  It seems to me that the wisest thing May could do would be to appoint Andrea Leadsom to the top post on the Brexit team (and Liam Fox for defence).

The Mail offers us its prognostications on May’s new Cabinet.

“Brexit means Brexit”.  It was encouraging to hear Theresa’s dictum that “Brexit means Brexit” – but it would have been even more encouraging had she added “not Norway-lite”.  I fear she is still mesmerised by the chimæra of the Single Market.  We need to exorcise that demon.  We want to be an independent nation with a free trade agreement – not a second-class EU associate member.  The Mail reports that Theresa is set to trigger Article 50 by the end of the year.  The end of the month would be preferable.  Certainly her friends are insisting she’s serious about Brexit.

The legacy of Project Fear

It is a pity that the media (and especially the BBC and the Guardian) still seem to be trawling for stories that vindicate Project Fear, while ignoring the good news.  Who would have thought that with all the volatility which we rightly expected around the referendum, the FTSE 100 would today be standing at 6682 – way ahead of the pre-referendum level?   The Pound is down – but it bounced back above the $1.30 level on the news of Andrea Leadsom’s withdrawal (I think that was a case of celebrating the removal of uncertainty, rather than the removal of Mrs. Leadsom).

Osborne’s world tour:  Good at least that George Osborne has begun “a world tour” to reassure investors that Britain is open for business.  But even then his comment implies a negative: “Britain has left the EU but it has not quit the world”.  Who thought it had?  We’re re-joining the world.  A newly liberated UK has shrugged off its “off-shore province” status, and is resuming its proper place as a great global trading nation.  This is not something to explain or to apologise for.  It’s something to celebrate.  At least we can applaud Osborne’s planned moves to make the UK even more attractive to inward investors.

Brexit boost for women drivers

One of the most egregious pieces of damaging EU regulation was Brussels’ doctrinaire insistence on outlawing “gender discrimination” in insurance – even when striking gender differences were absolutely clear from the data.  Previously, because women are safer drivers (admit it, chaps!) they got lower rates.  Under recent EU rules, insurers had to apply the same rate, so women were averaged up (and men averaged down, arguably increasing risk).  After Brexit we can set this right.

Not a big day for EU news

Exceptionally, the BBC web-site is just about as devoid of EU news as the Sun is currently devoid of sun-spots (possibly presaging cooler temperatures, but that’s another story).  So little real news indeed that “Cameron caught humming a tune” becomes a headline.

Tearing up their cards

Finally, it is reported extensively across social media sites that many Tories are tearing up their membership cards and coming over to join UKIP after Andrea Leadsom’s shock announcement yesterday.






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