Only five days to Independence Day!
Lord Guthrie switches to Leave
Field Marshall Lord Guthrie was Chief of the General Staff (Head of the Army) from 1994 to 1997, and Chief of the Defence staff from 1997 to 2001. Back in February, Lord Guthrie along with other military figures co-signed a letter drafted by Downing Street calling for Britain to remain in the EU.
However he has now switched to Leave, saying that it was a mistake on his part to sign the earlier letter. He is quite explicit about his reasons. He is concerned about the formation of a European Army, which he believes (as the Leave Campaign believes) will undermine NATO and so weaken the West in the face of possible external threats. Well done Lord Guthrie. It takes courage and strength of character to admit you made a mistake, and to correct it publicly. Clearly Lord Guthrie has little confidence in the assurances from Downing Street that we have a veto on the plan.
IMF: Doom and gloom all over again
Have they no shame? The IMF has chosen to issue a new warning of a post-Brexit recession, just days before the Referendum, and during the purdah period. A cynic might see the hand of Downing Street in this: it is bound by purdah rules, but it can orchestrate interventions from international organisations. In fact the IMF had previously outlined its findings, but it gets a second bite at the cherry by issuing the detailed report.
Professor Patrick Minford of Economists for Britain dismisses the findings, saying they are based on extremely negative assumptions on trade and investment, and use flawed models. An economic model is like a computer program – “Rubbish in, rubbish out”. The IMF concludes that by 2019 the UK economy will be between 1 and 5% smaller than it would otherwise have been. We should remember that the IMF is a creature of the EU (it has been criticised for trying to bail out the €uro when its focus should be on poorer countries). And its head, Christine Lagarde, is a former French Finance Minister, and Agriculture Minister. I suspect her motive is not to protect the UK economy, but to keep British tax-payers’ money flowing to French farmers. She is currently facing charges and a possible jail term in France for embezzlement and fraud.
A warning from Norway, Denmark and Ireland: In the context of the IMF story, it’s worth noting a letter in yesterday’s Telegraph from prominent NO campaigners in several countries, who have experienced the blast of EU propaganda ahead of referendums. They point out that establishment scaremongering always proves to be wrong (as it was in Britain’s €uro debate in the late nineties). Worth a read.
EU status quo? In the self-same letters column (link above) is a letter from none other than the Duke of Wellington, in which he concludes: “Voters must therefore think very carefully about taking their country down the road of so much uncertainty (i.e. Brexit) against the imperfect but known status quo”. I resorted to Twitter to rebut this point. The EU is anything but a “known status quo”. We have “a tsunami” (Commissioner Sefcovic) of new EU legislation waiting till after the referendum. Then we have the European Army (see Lord Guthrie above). The €uro crisis. The competitiveness crisis. The immigration crisis. Accelerated Turkish accession. The EU is no status quo. It’s a work in progress, a moving target, a runaway train. Let’s get off before it hits the buffers.
Carney can’t stop scare-mongering
The Daily Mail reminds us that Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, was previously with Goldman Sachs, which has given half a million to the Remain campaign. But Carney claims to be neutral, and “just doing his job”. You may, if you wish, take a different view.
Daily Star seeks to politicise the Jo Cox tragedy
Generally the media have been pretty fair and respectful in their coverage of the Jo Fox tragedy. Shock, outrage, anger, but no attempt to score cheap political points. Several papers report that the assailant shouted “Britain First” as he committed his assault, and some papers link that to a far-right political party of that name
The Daily Star, however, runs a banner headline “MP dead after attack by Brexit Gunman”. This is disgraceful. Brexit – the Leave Campaign – is a great, cross-party national movement that seeks to restore the independence and self-determination of our country. To attempt to smear the Brexit and the Leave Campaign by linking it to a deranged and murderous loner with hard-right sympathies is downright mischievous. To exploit this tragedy for a political purpose is worse.
Alex Massie in the Spectator: In a disgraceful piece in the Spectator, Alex Massie makes the same mistake. Referring to UKIP’s latest Brexit ad featuring the line “Breaking Point”, he says, in effect, that if we say we’ve reached a breaking point, we can’t be surprised if people break. To paraphrase: if you draw attention to reasonable concerns about immigration, you’re responsible for acts of mindless violence. Let’s have no political campaigning in case a deranged person misinterprets it. Sorry Alex. Wrong. Cheap. And reprehensible.
And a European Commissioner can’t resist point-scoring over a tragedy: Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for Migration (yes really) posted a Tweet which clearly linked the Jo Cox murder to the Brexit debate. He should be ashamed.
A small technical point that could cost Britain £15 billion a year
This is such a detailed technical point – but with a sting in the tail that could cost the UK more than our net budget contributions to the EU. Under EU VAT Directive 2006/112/CE Article 402 (yes, it has that many articles), the EU will switch from charging VAT in the country of destination of goods within the EU, to charging VAT in the country of origin. So what? you might ask. Won’t it all come out in the wash? ‘Fraid not. We currently collect the VAT on all those imported goods sold here. When the switch occurs, the country of origin will benefit from the VAT. But because we in the UK have a huge trade deficit with the EU, we’ll collect very much less VAT in the UK. Of course we’ll get the VAT on UK goods exported to the EU – but that’s a much lower figure.
On the current balance of payments, the loss of VAT to the UK is estimated at around £14 billion a year. We’ll have to pay it if we remain. We can avoid it with Brexit.
Angela Merkel and the Top Table
The Times reports Angela Merkel’s aperçu that “Britain needs its seat at the top table”. She means, of course, in the EU – but that’s a rather quaint idea of a top table.
After Brexit, we shall still be permanent members of the UN Security Council – a real top table. We’ll be leading members of the G7 and the G20. And NATO. And the Commonwealth. And the World Bank. And the IMF. And the OSCE. And the OECD. And importantly, we’ll resume our full seat on the World Trade Organisation – currently occupied on our behalf by Brussels.
That’s quite enough top tables to be going on with. We don’t need to be part of the slowest growing economic area in the world (excluding Antarctica, as Boris has remarked). I am tired of being told “We need to be able to influence decisions in the EU”, for two reasons: first, we can scarcely influence those decisions as it is. As an “Anglo Saxon” economy, we’re in a structural minority, and we are outvoted more often than any other member-state. And secondly, the price for that trivial influence over the EU machine is that we allow foreign institutions to make the majority of our laws. Not a good deal. Better to have 100% control over our own country than an 8% vote in Brussels.
You think Brexit might damage the UK? Just see what the €uro is doing to Italy
In recent days the bond spreads of peripheral EU countries have been rocketing skywards. Don’t imagine for a moment that the €uro crisis has gone away – it’s erupting again in the last week before our Brexit referendum. Let’s get to the lifeboats before the ship goes down.
Whistling in the dark
As EU politicians start to realise that Brexit is looking likely, they’re whistling in the dark to keep their spirits up. It will be an opportunity to reshape the EU, they say. Pity they didn’t think of that earlier. “We’re not afraid of Brexit” says Guy Verhofstadt. “Sometimes a divorce is better than too many compromises” says Vivian Reding. Yet they may have a point: the shock (to them) of Brexit may force the EU reforms which we couldn’t achieve as a member.
EU Commissioner sent to UK to campaign
Despite promises by Brussels not to interfere in the Brexit debate, the Express says that Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan is coming over to convince us all of the merits of EU membership. Tough call. Interesting that they send an Irishman. While Brexit will be good for Britain, it may be less good for Ireland. Perhaps he should declare an interest.
The Times declares for Remain
The Times heads it editorial, calling for Britain to Remain, with the words “The best outcome of next week’s referendum would be a new alliance of sovereign nations dedicated to free trade and reform”. Of course – but that new alliance of sovereign nations can only come from a Brexit vote. It is wholly at odds with the EU as it stands – and the EU doesn’t do reform. If Cameron failed to achieve even modest reforms when he could wield the threat of Brexit, does the Times imagine we can do better after we’ve run up the white flag? Brussels will take a Remain vote as the final solution to the British problem, and as an endorsement for more of the same – ever closer union, political and fiscal.
I recently attended a debate amongst (mainly British) academics in Paris, and one of their “experts” castigated me for suggesting that the Times was pro-EU. Nice to be vindicated by events.