The Queen and Brexit
The Sun leads with the dramatic story that Her Majesty is backing Brexit. This turns out to be based on second-hand conversations from five years ago, when Her Majesty is said to have disagreed with Nick Clegg on the EU. The Palace has since denied that the Queen stated such a view, and maintains that She is politically neutral, and that the EU issue is a question for the British people to decide in the Referendum.
This has placed Nick Clegg in a difficult position. To fulfil constitutional convention, he should have replied “Any conversations I may have had with Her Majesty are privileged, and I am not able to make any substantive comment”. But I guess he saw that this would be taken by the hacks as confirmation of the story, so he has fallen back on – how shall I put it? – diplomatic nuance? — and denied any recollection of such a conversation.
I am not sure that it is appropriate for us to speculate about Her Majesty’s possible opinions, and I do so with some trepidation. But given the exemplary way in which she has fulfilled her obligations to our nation for many decades, and given also her strong sense of our country’s long history and of Her own rôle within it, it is difficult to believe that our Sovereign would be content to be a mere citizen in someone else’s country, or a star on someone else’s flag.
Carney takes a one-sided view
The “i” newspaper headlines “EU exit biggest risk to stability, says Carney” (Mark Carney, Governor of The Bank of England). Actually he said it was the biggest domestic risk. He seemed to think that in global terms the slow-down in China was more serious.
But this is a very partial analysis. He has looked at the downside risk of Brexit, but seems to have ignored the off-setting up-side opportunities. And while commenting on the risks of Brexit, he has ignored the risks of staying in the EU, which are arguably much more serious. Let’s consider:
The down-side risks of Brexit: Of course there is a down-side risk to any major new development. But in the case of Brexit, the down-side risk is small, because we have a safety-net in the form of WTO rules. Many countries trade successfully with the EU on that basis, including the USA, Russia and China, the three largest sources of imports into the EU. Even this down-side is unlikely to occur, however, because economic reality dictates that we will very rapidly – certainly within the two-year disengagement period envisaged in the Lisbon Treaty Article 50 – will have a free trade agreement (FTA).
The up-side opportunities: These include the FTA, which would leave us with duty-free market access, but also free of EU regulation and interference; the opportunity to make new and advantageous trade deals around the world, including with the Commonwealth; less regulation; lower energy costs; and an economically-relevant immigration policy.
The risks of staying in: If we stay in a dysfunctional and declining EU, we shall certainly be affected by the EU’s poor economic performance. We will be dragged into the €uro’s problems (despite our opt-out); we have just been hit with a £500 million bill to help the Turkish issue; immigration will increase – Merkel will give passports to a million migrants, and the EU proposes to fast-track Turkish accession, which will mean more migrants and less EU funding. In my view the risks of staying aboard the sinking ship outweigh the risks of getting into the lifeboat.
Carney on immigration
It seems that the Governor of the Bank of England is supporting (or has been pressured by) the Remain camp. Not content with his “Risks of Brexit” position, he has also said that open-door immigration from Europe is “has boosted the economy“. There has been much debate about whether the net effects of immigration have been positive or negative, with views expressed on both sides. And quite apart from the strict economic numbers, there are legitimate questions about social cohesion and social infrastructure, about pressures on schools, hospitals, housing and so on, about health tourism and about wage compression.
What cannot be disputed, however, is that if we were able to select those would-be immigrants with skills we need, and reject those without (the much-cited “Australian Points System”), we would have a better outcome than we have from the current free-for-all. The current arrangement discriminates against skilled immigrants from the Commonwealth. And as I love to say, I’d rather admit an Indian dentist than an unskilled Romanian.
UN questions legality of EU’s migrant deal with Turkey
Jean-Claude Juncker has called it “a game changer”. It’s not. It’s a zero-sum game. The EU/Turkey proposal is a one-for-one migrant swap. One “genuine” Syrian migrant allowed into the EU from Turkey, in exchange for Turkey accepting the return of one non-Syrian migrant from the Greek islands.
It’s a bizarre (and rather pointless) idea, and could prove difficult to implement. Several papers report fears that attempts to round up and return migrants to Turkey from the Greek Islands could result in violence. But now the BBC is reporting that the UN’s Refugee agency is questioning the legality of the deal.
It has declared that any collective expulsion of foreigners is “not consistent with European law”. For good measure, Amnesty International called the plan “a death blow to the right to seek asylum”. Yet again, the EU proves utterly ineffectual and impotent in the face of an existential crisis.