Only 15 days to Independence Day!
Farage/Cameron: the debate that wasn’t
It’s a great shame that Cameron has chickened out of a proper head-to-head debate with Nigel Farage. Nigel would have challenged a whole series of Dave’s false assertions and implications.
Cameron repeatedly spoke of economic damage following Brexit as though it were an established fact, rather than a highly contentious opinion. He constantly reverted to his theme of “the Single Market”, saying that “we would lose access” after Brexit. No doubt he knew what he meant, but the average viewer would have concluded that “loss of access” meant that trade would stop dead (compare Stephen Kinnock MP’s preposterous comment that Brexit would lead to the “devastation and destruction of our entire export sector”). Cameron insisted that “market access” necessarily implied free movement of people, and submission to EU regulation.
He seems blissfully unaware that most countries in the world are not in the EU; most countries trade with the EU; many countries have free trade deals with the EU; none of those countries (leaving aside the special cases of Norway and Switzerland) have free movement deals, or are subject to EU legislation. Like most Remain apologists, he also seemed to conflate “meeting EU product specs on exports to the EU” (a commonplace of international trade) with whole economies subject to the full weight of EU law.
Nigel gave an excellent account of himself, and of the case for Brexit, despite having to face much more articulate, persistent and aggressive questions than those put afterwards to Cameron.
“Quitters”: Cameron insisted that only quitters who don’t love Britain would back Brexit. But it’s common sense, not quitting, to leave the sinking ship. And it’s madness to stay and fight for reform when we have four decades of experience proving that approach doesn’t work. Cameron also repeated the mendacious “Little England” slur. He knows better than anyone else that the Leave Campaign is for global trade and global engagement, and against a Britain that is no more than an off-shore province in a country called Europe.
Brexit team challenges Cameron to debate: Yesterday’s ITV Cameron/Farage programme was in no sense a proper debate. But Boris and Michael Gove have challenged Cameron to a face-to-face debate – something he’s always sought to avoid. Smart move. If he accepts, he’ll lose. If he refuses or prevaricates, he’ll look scared and shifty.
EU judges open the door to illegal immigrants
The Sun, under the headline “CHECKPOINT CHARLIES”, reports a ruling by EU judges that, in effect, it is illegal to lock up illegal migrants. Dominic Raab said the judgement “made a mockery of border controls”.
Meantime The Mail reports a new European Commission plan to control the influx of migrants – by inviting more to come from Africa and the Middle East, offering them US-style green cards enabling them to work and travel in the EU. Lucky the EU isn’t responsible for firefighting – they’d use petrol instead of water.
EU threat to pensions
The Express reports a warning (headline “New EU threat to your pension”) from Edi Truell, former chairman of the London Pension Fund Authority and founder of the Pension Insurance Corporation that proposed new EU tax legislation will impose costs of many billions of pounds on UK pension schemes, and warns we must vote for Brexit to avoid the threat. This is all part of the EU taxation proposals which I spoke of yesterday in Strasbourg.
Dominic Raab: European criminals free to live in Britain
This is a story I should have covered yesterday (but I was rushing to get to the hemicycle for my three minutes on tax harmonisation). Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Justice, Dominic Raab, who works closely with Michael Gove, has said that European murderers, rapists and violent offenders have been allowed to stay in Britain after their crimes. He presented a dossier of 50 serious offenders who have used EU rules to remain in the UK, and who now, he says, represent a danger to British citizens. He described this as “evidence of how the EU makes us less safe”.
Later Raab appeared on Good Morning Britain, interviewed by Piers Morgan, who reportedly attracted a raft of viewer complaints as he hectored Raab and simply refused to let him answer questions. Morgan was accused of “trying to censor pro-Brexit opinions”.
A Priti disgraceful story
Yesterday I wrote about cultural attitudes to women in the context of mass immigration from the Middle East and North Africa. But we ourselves are not entirely free of attitudes which many of us would find reprehensible. Tim Roache, leader of the GMB Union and a prominent Remain campaigner, is reported as saying that Minister Priti Patel’s name was “a contradiction”. Allies of Ms. Patel asked if Tim Roache was “sexist, racist or blind”. Perhaps all three. Roache sought to wriggle out of his egregious comment by saying he meant “her views on the EU are not pretty”. Not many people will find that convincing. But petty insults seem to be the order of the day. Maybe Sir John Major didn’t mean it when he called Boris Johnson “The Court Jester”. I suspect that Boris is at least as smart as Sir John.
EU red tape “condemning cancer patients to an early death”
Several papers including the Telegraph report that long delays in EU approval for new cancer drugs (without which the drugs cannot be used in the UK) is condemning some cancer patients to an early death. It is reported at the world’s largest cancer conference, in Chicago, that the drug palbociclib almost doubled the amount of time that the disease was stalled. But the EU has been considering it for eighteen months without so far reaching a decision.
Holland sends in the troops
Holland has deployed its Army to check lorries leaving for the UK for migrants, after a spike in the number of stowaways seeking to reach Britain. Nearly 500 have been stopped in the first four months of this year – as many as the total for 2015. Let’s be glad that someone is taking the problem seriously. Well done Holland.
Asa Bennett: Is Nigel the man?
Asa Bennett in the Telegraph asks whether Nigel is the right man to front the Brexit case, pointing out that he is trusted by only up to 28% of the electorate. But last time I checked, David Cameron’s “trust” figure was in the teens, so maybe Asa needs some perspective.
The thoughts of William Hague
In an op-ed piece, Hague picks up a recurring Remain Campaign theme. Why won’t the Leave Campaign tell us how many jobs will be affected? Why don’t they present a detailed economic plan? How can we trust them without such a plan? But this is a weasel question – but also a great technique in politics. Construct a question which your opponent can’t reasonably be expected to answer – then castigate him for not answering it.
So why is the question impossible to answer? Quite simply, because we’re campaigning in a referendum, not a General Election. If you have a political party campaigning in a General Election, then of course they must answer the question “If elected as a government, what is your economic plan?”. Fair question. Any party that didn’t have an answer would rightly be criticised. But the Leave Campaign isn’t campaigning to be a government. Even if it wins, David Cameron (or his successor) will remain Prime Minister. The Leave campaign is an alliance of very different politicians. Some would accept the Norway or Switzerland pattern. Others want a complete break. Some say it’s essential to stay in the Single Market. Others believe we should do better out of it entirely. Yet all agree that we should be Better Off Out. Boris Johnson and Kate Hoey are both campaigning for Leave – but would undoubtedly have very different economic policies for an independent Britain. The Remain Campaign is the same – we have seen a Tory Prime Minister share a platform with a prominent Labour MP plus leaders of the Greens and the Lib-Dems. You wouldn’t expect Remain to have a single economic policy, and nor should Hague demand it of Leave.
But there is a second reason why we can’t present a detailed plan. After Brexit, we shall have a two-year negotiation for new trade terms with the EU, and while we can set some broad parameters – for example, we shall be no worse off than WTO third-country arm’s length terms – we cannot say before we start exactly what the outcome will be. If Hague is saying we should never negotiate anything because we’re uncertain of the outcome of the negotiation, that would be a recipe for never doing anything. And of course we can put the question the other way. Tell us, William – what will happen if we vote to Remain? Will we have any influence in Brussels after we’ve run up the white flag and capitulated? Will Turkey join the EU? How many immigrants will come to Britain next year – and the year after? When will the next €uro crisis hit us? With EU energy policies, when will the lights go out? How many more Port Talbots will there be? How many more industrial jobs lost because of perverse EU policies? Will Southern Europe ever emerge from recession?
I recall that George Osborne has offered us plans to eliminate the deficit – but has never delivered. It’s easy to offer a plan – and fail to deliver. Much harder to be honest and say “We can give you some pointers, but no one in politics can ever guarantee that a forecast is 100% secure”.