“Brexit vote will mean the end of the EU”
The Telegraph reports that Xavier Rolet, head of the London Stock Exchange (currently in merger talks with Deutsche Bőrse) says that Brexit could mean the “implosion” of the EU. While you may think that this is unequivocal good news, Rolet goes on to make a case for Remain, arguing that an economic melt-down might even require the US to come with a new Marshall Plan to “put Humpty Dumpty together again”.
I take a different view, and I think Humpty Dumpty might work a whole lot better as a creature of parts. I see Brexit as a step towards a simple European Free Trade Area, with no political superstructure. Independent, democratic nations linked only by free trade and voluntary intergovernmental cooperation. As I’ve said before, Brexit is not the end, but a new beginning.
Scaremongering bites back
The FT reports mounting fears in the currency markets as the EU Referendum approaches. Of course a certain amount of volatility and irrational paranoia were to be expected in the run-up to any major change in the EU’s architecture. But I believe that the market concerns have been seriously exacerbated by scaremongering from the Remain camp. David Cameron and his Remain colleagues bear a heavy load of responsibility here. They have deliberately sought to drive panic about the possible consequences of Brexit, and to talk up exaggerated risks in the most lurid terms. They must not be surprised if in talking down Britain’s prospects they also spook the financial markets. But they bear a very heavy burden of responsibility, and if their prophecies prove partly self-fulfilling, they will not be forgiven.
It’s also worth remembering that when we left the ERM in 1992, and the value of Sterling fell, that started a long-term sustained economic recovery. Brexit could do likewise.
And contrariwise: You’d expect foreign holidays to get more expensive as the Pound comes under pressure. But the Express headlines “Holiday Bargains as costs tumble”. While Sterling may be under pressure from Referendum volatility, the real economies of Southern Europe continue to suffer from economic malaise and the €uro, and holidays are consequently cheap. One could observe that the €uro has real and underlying problems, whereas the Sterling issue is merely a little froth in financial markets.
“Border chaos threatens deal to deport migrants”
The Times reports that the EU/Turkey deal is threatened with chaos, as the Greeks say they have “no idea” how many migrants will be deported, and far too few EU officials have arrived to implement the plan. Some reports say that 750 migrants will be deported today; others that today’s figure will be “nothing like 500”. The initial group are said to be mainly from the Indian sub-continent. Of course the whole deal is a one-for-one swap, so it makes no net difference to the numbers on either side. Meantime there is unrest in the holding camps on the Greek Islands, with some migrants reportedly threatening self-immolation if deported, plus protests on the Turkish side by local residents opposed to the plan. Most reports indicate that only the most vestigial preparations have been made by Turkey to receive the migrants – perhaps a sign that they don’t really expect the programme to go ahead.
EU immigrant numbers: Government promises clarification
There has been huge doubt over statistics on EU immigration into the UK, with official statistics showing around 900,000 since 2010, but 2.25 million NI numbers issued. Of course the numbers don’t have to tally – EU migrants who apply for NI cards may subsequently go home, and while we count them coming in, we don’t seem to count them going out. Nonetheless the government, under some pressure from the Leave Campaign on the question, has promised to publish clarification in May – ahead of the Referendum. It seems inevitable that this will inflame the immigration debate and lend support to the Leave Campaign in the final weeks.
And a good news story on steel – at last
The Telegraph headlines “British Steel to rise from the Ashes” in a story that should warm the cockles in Port Talbot. Let’s hope they are not disappointed again. The Meyohas Brothers, of investor Greybull, who are already negotiating to buy part of the Scunthorpe plant, have expressed an interest in Port Talbot, and suggest, engagingly, reviving the “British Steel” name. Meantime Sanjeev Gupta of Liberty House, who has already done a smaller deal on steel in Scotland, is reportedly planning to meet the government to talk Talbot. And in an embarrassment of riches, the Guardian reports that German steelmaker ThyssenKrupp (with whom Tata are reputedly setting up a joint venture) has also expressed interest. Take your pick. And fingers crossed that something emerges. The government is making positive noises about supporting any viable rescue project – but concerns are already being raised that government action (for example bailing out Port Talbot’s massive Pension Fund) could fall foul of EU State Aid rules.
An amusing headline in the Mirror: “Time to say Tata, Minister”. Industry Minister Sajid Javid has not had a good crisis. Caught off-guard in Australia, he has been struggling to catch up, and repeating clichés in the absence of real policy initiatives. Even making allowances for the Mirror’s anti-government bias, they maybe have a point.
“The Panama Papers”
The Guardian reports on a massive leak of confidential banking data from a Panamanian Law Firm Mossack Fonseca. Reportedly bigger than Wikileaks or the Snowden data, it allegedly links close associates of Russian President Putin to money laundering activity. So far no news no links to EU figures – but watch this space.
Yesterday’s Sunday papers: Michael Howard, Fredrik Reinfeldt, Colonel Kemp
The Sunday Telegraph published a double page spread featuring comment from these three figures.
Lord (Michael) Howard gave a very moderate and reasonable defence of the case for Brexit. He clearly regrets being at odds with his former protégé David Cameron and his friend George Osborne, but he has decided to do what he believes is best for his country, and back Brexit. His argument is simple; we live in dangerous times, and the EU is taking away our control. As a letter writer to the paper put it recently, “There are risks associated with both leaving and staying. That being so, I’d rather choose the option where we have some control of events – I’ll vote to leave”.
Fredrik Reinfeldt is less well known, at least in the UK. He’s a former Prime Minister of Sweden, and he makes a typical argument in favour of Remain. He fears that Cameron may lose the referendum on the basis of “anti-élite sentiment”. He also says that Britain leaving would be a bad thing for the rest of the EU, and he could be right at that, but our task is to make the right decision for our country – not the best decision for other member-states. Moreover as I mentioned above my view is that Brexit is not the end but the beginning, and I hope very much it will lead to a radical re-think of the European project, and may even achieve my ideal, of a democratic Europe consisting of independent, democratic states trading freely and cooperating voluntarily, on an intergovernmental basis.
But Fredrik makes one other point that stuck in my throat. He argued that because the UK is a net EU contributor, and because Brexit would leave a big hole in the EU budget, Brussels would demand a major cash contribution to allow us access to their single market (as per Norway). Sorry, Fredrik, but free trade doesn’t work like that. Do Russia and China and the USA (who have no special trade deal with the EU) pay for access to the single market? They do not. Nor do Canada and Korea (who do have free trade deals). Free trade is mutual and reciprocal. We get access to their market in exchange for them having access to ours. If anyone is to pay for the privilege, Brussels should pay us, since we buy far more from them than they do from us.
Col Richard Kemp, who once commanded UK troops in Afghanistan, has said it is an “absolute certainty” that if we stay in, the UK would have to allocate troops to the European Army; that this would undermine NATO; and that we should no longer be able to make independent military decisions (like defending the Falklands). Europhiles used to deride the idea of a European Army, saying it was a sceptic scare story that would never come about. Now, of course it is coming about. We should heed Col Kemp’s warning.
Safety alert as EU blocks vital checks on doctors’ qualifications
The Mail draws attention to fears that the new European Professional Cards for doctors would allow continental practitioners with inadequate language skills, and quite possibly inadequate professional skills, to practice in the UK, and that our own medical authorities would find it difficult or impossible to challenge them. Yet another way in which voting to Remain undermines our safety.
British businesses unfazed by Brexit
Despite the CBI’s strong stand against Brexit, their own members’ survey shows considerable confidence which doesn’t appear to have been damaged by the “uncertainty” over the Referendum. The private sector anticipates a strong pick-up in business in the coming months, the figures show. The proportion expecting increased business until July registered 19%, against a long-term average of 10%.
Yesterday I reported the Opinium poll giving Leave a 4% lead. Meantime the National Centre for Social Research has a poll-of-polls showing 51/49 in favour of Remain. Many years of campaigning have taught me to be distrustful of anecdotal impressions from door-knocking or street stalls. Nonetheless I must confess I am surprised by the roughly 50/50 figures. I find on street stalls (of which I’ve done a number) the response is much more like 70/30 in favour of Leave. Throw in a little differential turn-out for good measure, and it seems to me that Leave is in with a shout – indeed rather a loud shout. Maybe Remain voters just don’t go to High Streets and Market Places.