Boris attacks Obama over Brexit
In his Telegraph column today, Boris Johnson launches a scathing attack on President Obama’s “hypocrisy” over Brexit, remarking quite rightly that the USA itself would never contemplate such infringements of its sovereignty as EU membership involves. The USA hasn’t even signed up to the International Criminal Court. It (wisely) never signed up to the Kyoto protocol. But it wantsBritain to remain signed up to the whole nine yards of European integration.
Yesterday I Tweeted “The USA fought and won a War of Independence. Obama of all people should understand our campaign for British Independence”. And: “Barack Obama is widely regarded as the least pro-British US President in living memory. Maybe that’s why he opposes #Brexit”. Barack Obama is of course a lame-duck President at the fag-end of his unspectacular Presidency, and seemingly can’t wait to get back to the golf course. He’s prepared to do a last favour for his friend David Cameron, even if it means (perhaps because it means) leaving Britain as an offshore province in someone else’s country — a star on someone else’s flag.
The post-Brexit Blueprint
A regular theme of the Remain Camp is to complain that the Leave Campaign “can’t say what the alternative is”, what trade deals the UK might have — or might have to negotiate — after Brexit. In yesterday’s papers, Justine Greening MP (who so far as I can see has no experience of international trade — the arena in which I spent much of my career) says we should “cut the rhetoric and give the public clear details on how Brexit would work”.
Two immediate responses might be:
1 OK, Justine, no one can predict the future exactly — just as you can’t tell us how the EU will work (or whether Turkey will be a member) in five years’ time. But we have a pretty good idea.
2 Justine, you could try asking the dozens of countries (including the USA, Russia andChina) which trade successfully with the EU, despite not being in the “Single Market”. And you could reflect on the fact that on average those non-EU countries are performing significantly better than the EU in economic terms.
We have a safety-net: The fact is that we on the Leave side are constantly spelling out the probable pattern of trade relations we can expect after Brexit. First of all, we have a securesafety-net — this in no “leap in the dark”. That safety-net consists of WTO rules, which are the basis on which dozens of countries trade successfully with the EU. Secondly, as I have repeatedly argued, there will be overwhelming economic pressure on both the UK and the EU to negotiate a rapid and timely free-trade deal. Thirdly, there is every reason to suppose that existing EU free trade deals (like Korea, for example) will simply be grandfathered to the UK. This will be a win-win deal for all parties. Fourthly, we will be free to set up new bilateral trade deals with the rest of the world, where the EU so far hasn’t bothered. If Switzerland and even little Iceland can do trade deals with China, I’m sure that the UK, as the world’s fifth biggest economy, can do so. And we can pursue deals with big, growing Commonwealth countries, like India. The opportunities are mouth-watering.
The truth is, Justine, that we have a clearer picture of the future of an independent UK than you have of the future EU, threatened as it is by several existential crises. Leaving the EU gives us greater economic security than staying in.
Storm Clouds over Turkey
The Indy leads with the terror attack in capital city Ankara which has left dozens dead and a hundred wounded. Turkish officials have been quick to blame Kurdish rebels, though some point the finger of blame at ISIL. Turkey is the country that Brussels wants to fast-track into the EU. It’s a country with a population of 75 million (larger than the UK, and soon to be larger than Germany), mostly Turkish Muslims, but a fifth or so Kurds. For decades there has been tension between the army, which is broadly secular, and civilian politicians, many of whom seek a more Islamic stance. Tension also between Turks and Kurds.
Turkey has borders with Syria, Iran and Iraq, and the Kurds are seeking an independent state that would intrude into what is currently Eastern Turkey. They could get one when the dust settles in Syria. Turkey is a poor country. Per capita GDP is $11,000, making Turkey poorer than most countries in the EU, where the current average is $32,400 (compare the UK figure of $42,000). An immediate result of Turkish accession would be the diversion of EU agricultural and cohesion funds away from Western Europe to the east.
As part of its increasingly desperate attempts to address its migrant crisis, Brussels proposes to offer Turkey visa-free access to the Schengen area by June of this year, and to fast-track Turkish accession to the EU (which has been on the back-burner for decades). If Turkey joins the EU, its citizens will be free to come to Britain.
Brussels plan in tatters: The bizarre migrant swap plan proposed between the EU and Turkey has been roundly attacked by the UN and humanitarian organisations, as potentially illegal. They are saying that every migrant that Brussels intends to return to Turkey will be entitled to an individual tribunal hearing — a process that could take decades, with no certain outcome. It clearly won’t work, and may not even get past the European Council scheduled for later this week. Member states are also asking serious questions about the funding of the €6 billion deal.
A million Turks in Britain? No one knows how many Turks would come to Britain if Turkey joined the EU. Certainly previous estimates of migration have been overwhelmed by reality. It is not unreasonable to expect that several millions of Turks would want to move westwards, seeking better security, jobs, higher wages and a better life. Many might be attracted to the UKby the proposed “living wage”, which (while good from many angles) will certainly increase the pull factor. It is by no means inconceivable that a million might choose to come to Britain.
Merkel humiliated as AfD surges
Most of the serious papers cover the regional elections in Germany yesterday, where Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats got a bloody nose at the hands of Alternative for Deutschland (AfD), described in some papers as “a far-right party”. The Mail gives the flavour: “Crushing verdict on open-door migration: Merkel humiliated as German voters turn to far-right party”.
The German press was pretty clear: Bilt headlines “Nightmare for Germany”, obviously concerned about the ghosts of Germany’s past. Yet the description of AfD as “Far Right” deserves closer examination. The party was started by academic economists and constitutional lawyers concerned about the direction of European integration. It was almost too esoteric and academic to be a political party at all. The immigration issue seemed to come almost unexpectedly, and coalesced around AfD as the only party prepared to break the politically-correct convention that “We don’t talk about immigration” (as was the case with UKIP in the UK). I don’t see them as “Far Right” — rather as a rational common sense party responding to the legitimate concerns of citizens. They deserve our congratulations for their achievement, and Merkel may rue the day she put her personal prejudices ahead of the verdict of the people.
Prize for best headline
This must surely go to the new paper “New Day”, reporting on the costs of child-care: “Crèche and burn”. Brilliant.