Three weeks to go. 21 days to Independence Day
OECD joins the scaremongers
The OECD has joined the long list of organisations warning against the “negative shock” of Brexit. It has downgraded its UK growth forecast for the year from 2.1% to 1.7%. It suggests that “less openness to international trade” could be a factor. But outside the EU’s protectionist Common External Tariff, we should have more openness to trade – and the ability to strike our own trade deals with fast-growing economies around the world.
Three things to remember about the OECD: (A) It receives funding from the EU; (B) Like so many of these organisations, it issued similar warnings against staying out of the €uro – wrong then, wrong now; and (C) it offers no credible rationale for its forecasting – it’s merely rehashing establishment group-think. Oddly, it even seems to recognise that a weaker pound (which it predicts, again without any credible rationale) could be positive for the British economy – but that’s not reflected in its forecasting.
George Osborne gets his tuppenceworth: Osborne has attacked the leave Camp for its “uncosted and unworkable proposals”. But how does he expect anyone to cost the future when the basic assumptions are in dispute? Can he cost the economic damage that remaining in the EU will cause over coming years? And what price does he consider too high to pay for independence, self-determination and democracy? Others have paid the price in blood. I believe that we at least can look forward to an economic bonus from independence.
EU states in disarray over Brexit
Ambrose Evans Pritchard’s article yesterday “Dreamers are tearing Europe apart” started out with EU Council President Donald Tusk’s trenchant criticism of the EU’s “Utopian élites” who (he said) were living in a fool’s paradise, as they rush headlong to ever closer union. But the later part of the Ambrose article is also worth reading. He points out that EU member-states are conflicted on how to respond. They are starting to realise that the EU project itself is at stake.
Paris is pushing for a hard line to “punish” the UK for leaving (don’t expect gratitude because we liberated their country seventy-odd years ago). They want to make sure that we do so badly that no other member-state is tempted to follow. But any punitive trade measures would also damage the €urozone itself – arguably more than it would hurt the UK, given the €urozone’s current fragile state. (And, by the way, it is difficult to imagine what “punitive measures” could be put in place without infringing WTO rules).
Italy on the other hand has pledged not to adopt “a punishing attitude”. And some calmer voices are warning that a reflex punitive attitude could back-fire, and could compound the damage and enflame eurosceptic revolt across Europe. My view? In the end, economic imperatives will drive the plot. EU leaders will realise that they will need our trade and cooperation.
Two thirds of people don’t believe Brexit would make them poorer
Despite the Government’s determined efforts to paint Brexit as an economic apocalypse, the arguments just don’t seem to be getting through, as a poll shows that two thirds of the voters simply don’t believe they’d be worse off with Brexit.
This is a particular problem for the Remain Campaign. If voters have already rejected these claims, merely repeating them is unlikely to be effective, and if President Obama didn’t sway them, then it’s difficult to think of anyone short of the Archangel Gabriel who would have much effect. 44% believe that Britain would be in strong position to make new trade deals, compared with only 27% who think the opposite.
Meantime it seems to be the immigration issue which is driving the debate. With the referendum only three weeks away, I think we have grounds for optimism. But the challenge for Leave is to convince these voters that Brexit would actually make them better off.
The EU lost £670m to fraud last year
OLAF, the EU’s anti-fraud office, reports that £670 million were lost in fraud last year, mainly in Eastern European accession states – Romania and Bulgaria. Brussels apologists love to say “Actually, it’s not fraud in the EU institutions, it’s in the member-states”, as though that made us feel any better about losing the money.
Michael Gove: EU rules expose the UK to terror
Under the headline “EU rules expose UK to terror” the Telegraph reports comments by Justice Secretary Michael Gove in which he claims that EU rules, and uncontrolled immigration from the EU, increase the risk of terrorist attacks in the UK.
Meantime Allister Heath writes that there is no safety inside the arrogant, imperial and dangerously unstable EU. Staying in is a far greater risk than voting to leave, he argues.
Immigration still in the headlines
The Mail reports that the two trafficking suspects thought to have brought 18 Albanians across the Channel had bought their inflatable boat on E-Bay for a mere £3,000, a few days before the crossing. The Express carries a photograph of a makeshift tent camp on the French Channel shore, headlined “THE INVADERS: Migrants set up camps on French cliffs as they wait for boats to smuggle them to England”
The Albanians, by the way, seem to claiming asylum – though their country is not at war.
Meantime Tim Roache of the GMB has urged Jeremy Corby to “speak up on immigration”. One feels for Jeremy’s discomfiture. First he’s obliged to support Remain (however half-heartedly) against his deepest instincts. Then he’s called on to speak in favour of mass immigration and open borders, though he knows that’s anathema to many Labour voters and working people generally. Oh well, that’s politics (if you’re the Leader of the Labour Party).
John Longworth, formerly head of the British Chambers of Commerce, has said that Britain’s current immigration policy is a disaster and must be replaced with a points system.
“EU Referendum: The voters want facts”
So says the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg. And in a sense she’s right. We’ve all heard it on the campaign trail. “Why can’t you stop bickering and give us the facts?”, they cry. But of course they don’t really want facts. They want to know what the future holds if we vote IN or OUT. And that’s not a fact – it’s a forecast. We come back to the old chestnut “Forecasting is difficult, especially about the future”. The truth is that no one on the Leave side can tell you for sure what will happen after Brexit – and no one on the Remain side can tell you what will happen if we stay in. We can simply give our best guesses, and our rationale, and clearly the two sides will disagree.
But I agree with Allister Heath (above). Staying IN – staying on the EU’s runaway train – is a bigger risk than taking control of our future in an independent, democratic UK
Wetherspoons backs Brexit with beer-mats
The pub chain Wetherspoons has printed 200,000 Brexit beer-mats. That’s worth raising a pint to!
Postal Vote “Advice”
Remember that postal vote advice leaflet – which showed a pencil hovering over the “Remain” box on the ballot paper? Just a random mistake with no malice aforethought? Not according to Patrick O’Flynn, writing in the Express. He thinks it was enemy action – and he could well be right.
William Hague’s wishful thinking
On Sunday, William Hague published a thoughtful article discussing how each side in the referendum campaign should respond to the result, whether In or Out. His first point was that both sides should respect the result, whatever it may be. This suggests to me not only that he fears a Leave vote – but also that he fears a very close Remain vote, which would rather undermine the legitimacy of our EU membership (remember Ted Heath promising “the full-hearted consent of the British people”?
But I was struck by Hague’s suggestion that in the event of a Remain vote, “the next 18 months will be the best chance we ever have to push it (the EU) in the right direction, culminating in the UK presidency of the EU in the second half of next year”. Hang on William. David Cameron’s attempts at reform were rejected with contempt by Brussels, even when he had the implied threat of Brexit to back up his demands. With that threat thrown away, you imagine that Brussels will then allow Britain to “push it in the right direction”?
Let’s get real. If we vote to Remain, Brussels will conclude that the threat has gone away. That Britain and its people have capitulated. That euroscepticism has been put back in its box. They will conclude that the way is clear for a headlong rush to deeper integration, an EU Army, fiscal union, Turkish accession, an EU superstate — and that dissenting views from the UK can be safely ignored.
We have little enough influence in Brussels today. If we now vote to Remain, we shall have none.