Just one short week to go – let’s make it count!
Farage Flotilla for the Fishermen
It’s remarkable that in the forty years since the EU destroyed the UK’s fishing industry, we’ve almost forgotten it existed. Today we’re worrying about energy-intensive industries, and art auctions, and clinical trials, and our ports – and indeed the City of London – all more or less under threat from Brussels. But many of us have forgotten the decimation of our fishing industry decades ago, with the loss of thousands of jobs. Never forget that the EU is a job destruction machine.
But the fishermen haven’t forgotten, and a group of the few that remain sailed their trawlers up the Thames yesterday. Farage’s flotilla for fishermen. That would surely have been newsworthy by itself. But we have to thank rent-a-quote celebrity and Irish millionaire Bob Geldof for maximising the headlines. He chose to mount a counter-demonstration. This involved screaming abuse, raising two fingers, and showing the utter contempt of a rich celebrity for decent working people whose jobs are under threat. Other Remain campaigners on Geldof’s boat left in disgust at his behaviour.
It is instructive that a supporter of Brussels like Geldof should show such bitter contempt for ordinary working people – because as I have often remarked, that is exactly the attitude that Brussels has to public opinion. Let’s force Mr. Juncker to take notice next Thursday. And I hope Mr. Geldof will reflect that his egregious rudeness will have persuaded many voters to back Leave. Worth reflecting that Geldof is Irish. It may well be better for the Irish if the UK remains in the EU – but it’s certainly not better for the British.
Tory fury at Osborne’s crass threats
The rifts in the Tory Party widen. Conservative MPs are reportedly furious at George Osborne’s egregious threat to raise taxes and cut spending if we vote for Brexit. There are calls for him to resign (as indeed I called for in my “Open Letter” in yesterday’s Debrief) Dozens of Conservative MPs are said to be ready to vote against any such budget. It is difficult to see how the Conservative Party or the government will paper over the cracks after the referendum.
The EU Army
Another threat that isn’t always at the top of our minds – but perhaps should be – is the Brussels/Berlin plan for an EU Army. As with so many policy initiatives, Brussels is trying (not very successfully) to keep these plans under wraps until June 24th. But Con Coughlan in the Telegraph writes a very powerful critique of the idea. An EU Army will undermine our security. It will by-pass NATO. It will weaken the West’s defences. And it will be wholly ineffective in deterring Putin’s ambitions. Indeed the one person to benefit from an EU Army (apart from the supporting apparatchiks) will be the Russian leader.
Coughlan thinks that this threat by itself is sufficient reason to vote Leave. I think he’s right.
“We’re from Europe – Let us in”
The Mail offers dramatic photos and footage of the moment police stopped an Italian lorry in London and found eleven illegal immigrants hiding in the back – and demanding to be admitted to the UK. The paper uses the story to dramatise a disagreement between Chancellor Osborne and Home Secretary Theresa May. Osborne insisted that there could be no change in free movement, and current immigration policy. But hours later May said that there would have to be changes (although as Cameron has already tried and failed to change the immigration rules, this sounds like wishful thinking). Theresa May’s position is interesting. My take (purely speculation) is that she started out a closet sceptic. She decided to toe the Cameron line on Brexit when she thought Remain would win, and she wanted to secure her position in the government. But perhaps, looking at the polls, she is now tip-toeing towards the Leave side.
The difference between Osborne and May in the Tory party is curiously reflected in the Labour Party, where Corbyn in his ivory tower (can an ivory tower be red?) refuses to countenance any immigration changes, while deputy leader Tom Watson, more pragmatic, sees the need to assuage public concerns and has insisted rules must change.
EU leaders: “We’ll do better after Brexit”
Until now, the conventional wisdom has been that Brussels is desperate for Britain to stay. But now, apparently accepting that Brexit is likely and seeking to get their spin out there early, they are saying they’ll do better after Brexit. The report quotes a “senior official” saying that “Britain must not over-estimate its own importance” (We’re not – we’re just asking for independence and self-determination).
But you can see their point. We’re only the fifth largest economy in the world, and the second largest net contributor to the EU budget. Oh, and set to become the largest member-state by population in a couple of decades. They say they’ll simply respond by pulling in new members. But the new members will be from the East. They will be poorer. They will add to the EU’s economic woes and cultural divergences.
The only way for the EU to benefit (and perhaps the only way to survive) after Brexit would be to pull together a core group of countries around Germany and France and create a closely-integrated entity. But their historic ambitions for ever-growing hegemony will be at an end.
Scotland rejects Project Fear
The Scottish Daily Mail says a new poll shows support for Remain plummeting as Scots reject Project fear. Maybe those worries about “break-up of the UK” were misplaced.
A mis-step from the Leave Camp
The FT and the Indy report that several major blue-chip companies are annoyed that the Leave Campaign has used their logos in a leaflet, implying their endorsement of the Leave campaign, and are threatening to sue. As I understand it, Leave have taken helpful comments from these companies (“We wouldn’t close our UK operations in the event of Brexit”, for example), interpreted these comments as endorsements, and used the companies’ logos in their material. Of course they should have sought the approval of the companies first (which would not have been forthcoming).
An aside on the position of large companies. It is notable that generally speaking large companies that have endorsed Leave have been privately owned (JCB, Dyson). Public companies have a range of shareholders whom they may not wish to offend by backing Brexit. Equally they may be intimidated by the patronage powers of the European Commission, whose support they may need on legislative issues.
Switzerland withdraws its EU application
In a sign of the times – and of the regard in which Brussels is held – Switzerland has chosen to withdraw its long-standing application to join the EU. Coming a week before the UK referendum, it’s difficult not to see this as a very Swiss, very tangential comment on Brexit.
Comments in brief
Steve Hilton, Cameron’s former strategy adviser, says the Remain campaign is becoming hysterical. Multi-millionaire businessman John Boyle says it would be suicide for Europe to stop trading with the UK after Brexit. Allister Heath writes: “It will all end in tears for the first kamikaze Chancellor in history”
Brilliant audience intervention in QT
An audience member makes the case for Brexit: “The real risk is staying in”. Worth a watch.