THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain

Posts categorized "Brexit 2016" Feed

It's no longer about Brexit

I joined the final leg of the March to Leave from Fulham to Parliament Square today. I did so with a heavy heart. Parliament is unable to agree terms to leave the EU, but unwilling to leave without an agreement. That is currently the only way available to it to implement the people's decision. While it's not ideal, I don't fear it. We could save ourselves the severance payment agreed (for no good legal reason) by our Prime Minister. Every business I have inside information about is prepared for it and I have very little sympathy with any businesses so imprudent as not to be.

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If we leave with no deal on April 12, negotiations on future relationships can begin in earnest with our trading partners, including the EU. They can be conducted – as they should be –  by an independent British Government. Given the drafting of Article 50, which is designed to disadvantage a country giving notice to Leave, this was always likely to be the best interim outcome. I would have gone straight for it had I been in Mrs May's kitten heels, using the notice period entirely to prepare for a no deal exit and declining seriously to discuss the future relationship until those preparations were satisfactorily in place. Like those prudent business people in relation to their own affairs, my first concern would have been to prepare for the worst before aiming for the best. 

I made my living negotiating agreements. I have many friends who did the same. We are all of the opinion that, had the UK taken this approach, we would have been spared the humiliation of watching our PM shuttle back and forth to the EU as a supplicant. Instead an orderly queue of the EU's five presidents (none elected) would have formed up outside Number 10.

I am now more concerned with the threats to our nation's democracy that Brexit has revealed than about Brexit itself. This morning I was so concerned that I told Mrs P the Second this march would probably be my last political act. I was despondent for the 17.4 million voters urinated on from a great height by our political class. I was angry at our far-worse-than-useless mainstream media which has vilified, smeared and defamed them for the last three years. I was fearful for all of us – Leave and Remain – whose future mode of government is at stake. 

I am less concerned, upset and angry this evening. Why? I met my people. Not the savages the BBC and Guardian say they are but sensible British folk. I saw no extremists. I met no racists (in fact the marchers were diverse). We talked to each other as we marched; far more in sorrow and sincere concern than in anger. We even discussed our worries for our European neighbours in the chaos the mishandling of Brexit has caused. When provoked by Remain counter-protesters I feared that less temperate elements among us might give the media what they were loitering in the hope of  filming. Instead we just made an "L" sign on our foreheads and chanted "Losers" at them. Even they (mostly) smiled.

I always knew in my heart that the Establishment media portrayal of Leave voters was just a succession of vile smears, but when you swim in a sea of lies it's hard not to get wet. Today did me a lot of good – and not just because of healthy exercise in beautiful sunshine. 

As Nigel Farage said in Parliament Square, this is not about Brexit now, it's about "who we are". Yes, we have been sorely disappointed by our political class. They have sold us out and betrayed us but they have also taken the scales from our eyes. Those of us who have long said that, under an over-mighty state, unsavoury types are bound to be drawn to lording it over their fellow men while living on them as parasites were considered cynical at best and extreme at worst. Now all living generations have learned that we were, if anything, too kind in our assessment. Brexit has been an education and three charming Yorkshire ladies in the pub at lunchtime readily agreed with my prediction that the British people will not allow our discredited political class to talk down to us again.

They have been exposed as charlatans at best and idiots at worst.

It’s about democracy now. Political sophists have quibbled about what democracy really means in this context and I confess they had befuddled my thinking. I learned from the  people I marched with today that— whatever it means — it’s not this. "They've cheated us", one lady told me and I think she spoke for many – including many decent Remainers prepared to abide by the majority decision. It’s not cricket to ignore the most significant popular vote in British history. It just isn't.  Whether Britain will do better or worse economically outside the EU was not even discussed today. Instead we worried about saving our country whose legislators have shamefully turned their backs on us. 

During his short speech in Parliament Square (not on the same stage, though the Guardian would like to deceive you, as Tommy Robinson and UKIP) Mr. Farage quoted (without attribution) the former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis who said recently on Question Time that this is a treaty that:

"would only be signed by a nation defeated at war"

The marchers had already cheered the news that May's treaty had been rejected for a third (and surely a final) time. Farage promised that, if we didn't leave on the new date of April 12 (and he admitted he feared we would be betrayed yet again) that he would return to politics to fight the European Parliament elections. We are not going to give up, he told us and in the end, we are going to win. I hope he's right but my confidence is shaken. After all, I had never imagined Parliament's Remain majority would dare to defy the people as they have. 

The options now are:

  1. We leave with no (finalised) deal on April 12, or
  2. The EU allows an extension on terms that will include our staging elections to their fig leaf of a pretend parliament and (probably) another referendum.

I believe Farage's new Brexit Party would win the ensuing European Parliament elections dramatically. So does he and he hopes the EU Council will fear that outcome sufficiently to refuse the extension. As for a second referendum he believes that Remainers disgusted by the Establishment assault on democracy would boost the Leave vote so that we would win with an increased majority. 

After the march and before the speeches I adjourned to the pub with an agreeable  chap I had walked the final miles with. We were joined by another chap up from Dorset. Both were business people. Both, like me, had (unlike most of our political class) actually engaged in international business. None of us were unduly concerned about leaving with no deal. Business, we agreed, is done in spite of government not because of it. It’s the politicians who are (a) in a mess and (b) – as always – vastly over-estimating their own economic importance. 

One of my companions wryly observed that it might even be better for the country's economy if the Brexit saga dragged on for longer as it was preventing the idiot politicians from screwing other things up at their usual rate. In such company my faith returned. We Brits are ill-served by our politicians (who isn't?) but there's damn-all wrong with us as a nation – however bad we may look in the world's eyes right now.

Gentle readers, do you agree?


Conservative Renaissance Conference 2018 organised by .@ToryProgress

I am not sure how I ended up on the mailing list but I was invited to this event today so I went. Part of me wants the Conservative Party once more to fulfil the function it did in Margaret Thatcher's time – as a radical opponent of Big Government, dedicated to free markets, deregulation and privatisation. I encounter the occasional member from the libertarian wing like Dan Hannan or Syed Kamall and hope springs once more in my naive breast. I had met Kamall at a Libertarian Home meeting. I found him somewhat wanting ideologically, but the fact he showed up raised hopes. It was his name on the programme and that of David Campbell-Bannerman MEP that made me decide to risk wasting a Saturday that could have been spent on my pleasures. 

The name of the organising group – Conservative Progress – should have tipped me off. Progress is a good thing, just like being social. But organisations that use either word in their titles are usually to be avoided. This one was founded by two enthusiastic young politicos named Nabil Najjar and Luke Springthorpe and describes itself as follows:

We are a grassroots organisation founded by Conservative activists for Conservative activists. We host events that are relevant and engaging, and offer training that is beneficial to developing activists. We also promote and share good practice and offer a platform for the views of conservative minded political activists.

Most of the people at the conference were either pro-Brexit, or were Remainers who accepted the referendum result. The Soubry Faction was not in evidence. So the discussions around that issue were both illuminating and encouraging. Suella Braverman MP, Under Secretary of State at DEXEU, assured us that there is "a lot of unity" in Cabinet on Brexit and that the legal agreements to give effect to it are about 75% complete on terms that Parliament should be able to approve. She pointed out that if Parliament didn't, the only alternative would be a "no deal" Brexit. That would leave us dealing with the EU (as many countries successfully do) on WTO terms. 

Even more encouragingly, as he's not under Cabinet discipline, Campbell-Bannerman was just as optimistic. He said the EU has offered a free trade deal on better terms than with any other country and that we should simply accept it. He said the legal terms were "about 80% agreed". He was as relaxed as I am about a "no deal" exit but said that as a good "Canada++ free trade deal" was on the table, why not get it done? For me, accustomed to the views of the BBC and others longingly predicting the catastrophic outcome they desire and to those of Brexit bloggers fearful of betrayal, this was worth losing a few hours with my hobbies.

The rest of the speeches were less edifying. I was clearly not among the classical liberal elements of the Party. James Palmer, Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, for example remarked that "Conservatives would find it hard to accept" his idea of capping development land prices at, say, ten times their agricultural value. Damn right they would. Price controls are economic idiocy that lead to shortages, rationing, violent expropriation and corruption. No true Conservative would find it easy to accept such wickedness. But no-one in the hall seemed to share my concerns. 

The logic behind Mayor Palmer's dottily immoral idea was that, if the Party can't solve the problem of millennials not being able to afford to buy houses, they will be lost forever to Labour or the Liberal Democrats. So to hell with the economic principles that a true Conservative Party would exist to preserve. Let's instead be "pragmatists" (as I have remarked before, Tory code for "unprincipled shits") and bribe young voters. I tried frantically to intervene during questions but the young moderators preferred mostly to call upon people of their generation; often friends whose names they knew. So I did not have chance to point out that while Mayor James and his colleague from London were blaming development companies, land banking and (God help us) "capitalism" for the housing shortage, the solutions are in the hands of national and local government. 

Real estate is not really a free market anyway. If a piece of land is worth £x without a planning permission and £20x with one, then most of the value of a development site is within the gift of the planning authority. This is why real estate is the most corrupt area in most economies across the world. If a piece of paper issued by a modestly paid local official is worth more than land; for most of human history the most fundamental of all economic assets, then that official is – shall we say – always going to be treated very well. The only reason planning engenders less corruption in Britain than in the other countries where I have worked (Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria, Russia and China) is because there is a legal presumption in favour of development that complies with published zoning plans and the appeals procedure is efficient. A bribe would get your project approved perhaps six months more quickly here and that time certainly has economic value. But usually not enough to risk gaol and disgrace. That, and not any moral superiority on our part, is what keeps us from the crookedness common elsewhere.

In London in particular the solution to the housing crisis is greater density. Our Capital City is far less densely built than, for example, Paris or Berlin. Where I live in Ealing, the world's first suburb originally spawned by the world's first metro - the District Line, one might almost be in a village judging by the terraced villas with their poxy little gardens and the grander homes interspersed amongst them. At the same distance from the Place de la Concorde as Ealing is from Trafalgar Square, you would be among high rises. Yet Ealing's planning policies forbid them and make even more modest multi-family housing more difficult to build. And the same Conservatives in Name Only who were blaming greedy development companies for pricing housing out of young hands campaigned on a slogan in the recent elections of "Keep Ealing low-rise." The other local politician on the panel understood this well enough to propose massive densification of public housing (occupied by Labour voters) but not for the private housing occupied by his own. How little like a true Conservative did he sound when proposing to build lots more council flats at subsidised rents mostly paid by welfare benefits to solve the housing crisis? I leave it to you to imagine.

Of course, to densify London would involve upgrading roads, sewers and utilities to support all the new residents (or the more widely dispersed millennials released from their squalid house shares). Yet when Labour has periodically set the economy ablaze and the voters have called in the Conservative Fire Brigade to quell the flames what has it done? Has it reduced the ranks of public servants doing pointless jobs? Has it reined in public spending and reduced taxes? Has it withdrawn from all the busy-bodying and prod-nosing begun by its Labour predecessors? No! It has usually just pushed back all the infrastructure projects the construction of which is one of the few valid jobs for government. Keep the "Diversity coordinators" and spend millions on "Public Health England" to nag us about our diets. But let the roads degenerate to Third World standards and let fatbergs block the Victorian sewers.

Even more terrifying than the support from Comrade Mayor Palmer was the wild enthusiasm for Penny Mordaunt MP, Secretary of State for International Development. Mordaunt is a great speaker and I tip her as a future PM. She had the room eating out of her hand by saying all the right things if you believe that the State can ever be an efficient and honest dispenser of largesse to the world's poor. If you believe that nonsense, however, you're not a true Conservative and should not really have been in the room, let alone cheering her on. She was all for clever targeting of aid; directing it to relieve pressures that might otherwise lead poor people to become economic migrants for example. But she was naively confident that, six months into her brief, her talent was such that all British aid was now finding its way to deserving recipients. This, despite the fact she admitted that on her first day her department could not account for where any of it had gone until then!

She began by talking about how generous Brits are in donating to development and poverty relief charities but then, like any Socialist would, set about conflating the generous nation with its ugly, nasty guard dog, the State. A true Conservative would stop taking money from poor people in rich countries to give to rich people in poor countries and would let taxpayers make their own choices about charities to support. Ms Mordaunt is no true Conservative in that respect and neither were any of the people in the audience judging by the rapturous applause her meretricious speech received. 

The "Blue Labour" jibe against the "Conservative" Party seems well justified on today's showing. The people I spent today with were well to the left of any Labour government to date. They were only "Conservative" by comparison to the current Labour leadership, but then by that comparison Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin could have joined us. My subscription is up for renewal and I can't imagine I will stay a member.


The Moggster reminds us what Brexit is about

As resolve seems to be weakening, here is the Moggster explaining to the Oxford Union just why we are leaving the economically-destructive, anti-democratic, extremism-inducing shambles that is the European Union. Note there is no mention of immigration nor any hostility to our European neighbours. Actually, he expresses affectionate concern for them. His speech is about the things that motivated me to vote "Leave", namely concern for justice, democracy and fairness and fear that damned institution's manifold idiocies will cause more economic catastrophes like that in Greece, and bring back the political extremism to which the Continent, with its top-down Roman Law approach, is so prone.

 


European Union demands are more imaginative than legal

European Union demands indefinite right to remain for unborn children of EU nationals in UK.

Ignoring, for the time being, the demands on immigration, it seems that the EU has finally given some workings on their calculation of financial demands on "divorce" (as they emotively choose to characterise our leaving their political club).
“financial settlement should be based on the principle that the United Kingdom must honour its share of the financing of all the obligations undertaken while it was a member of the Union. The United Kingdom obligations should be fixed as a percentage of the EU obligations calculated at the date of withdrawal in accordance with a methodology to be agreed in the first phase of the negotiations”. 
Readers will be aware of my cynicism about the binding nature of International Law, but clearly Britain is going to comply with the governing treaties for diplomatic purposes so, ultimately, this is a legal negotiation, based upon their terms. I have only one question therefore. Where in the treaties governing the relationship of the member states of the EU is the above "principle" stated? Spoiler alert. It isn't.
 
I made my living as a negotiator. There's always a ritual dance. No-one opens with what they expect to get, but this is a joke that destroys the EU's credibility as a negotiating partner. It is a signal of bad faith and an insult to the British people.

Legal analysis vs bluster in the Brexit negotiation

The current public discussion about the so-called "divorce bill" or "financial settlement" claimed by the European Union in relation to the UK's termination of its membership is ill-informed on a cosmic scale. I decided to flex my neglected skills as a retired international lawyer and do a bit of research.

The EU has yet to produce any legal justification for its claim. It is simply asserting, as a negotiating position, that it will discuss nothing else until a payment has been agreed. This is an oddly weak stance. If there is a legal basis for the claim, they don't need it signed off in advance. It would simply be a contractual consequence of the treaties. The European Court would rule if the principle or amount were disputed.

To someone who negotiated for a living for decades, it has the aroma of, to be polite, bravado or, to be less polite, something else beginning with a "b".

That impression is reinforced by the fact that the EU has not produced its calculations. According to press reports it is demanding between sixty and one hundred billion Euros. Nor has it offered any legal analysis. We are told that the British government has clear legal advice that no such payment is due. Of course it won't publish that advice until the EU has offered some justification. 

Lawyers for Britain (disclosure: a campaign group in support of Brexit) has however commissioned and published a counsel's opinion by Martin Howe QC entitled The withdrawal of the UK from the European Union: Analysis of potential financial liabilities. The full opinion can be downloaded here. I have also hosted a copy of it on this site and put a link in the sidebar. It is well and clearly written. I suspect many of my esteemed readers will actually enjoy reading it even if they are not accustomed to such documents. 

For now, I will cut to the chase however and quote the conclusion of pages of dense analysis: 

For the reasons set out in this paper, there is a powerful legal case that the UK will not owe the EU any monies on withdrawal, and will be entitled to a net payment representing the value of its capital in the European Investment Bank.

Those readers who, like, me, actively want a "hard Brexit" should take the following comfort. If the EU's negotiators stick to their present position, there can be no further negotiation. The UK will exit without any agreement. It might even be possible (though I doubt any possible government after the election would have the testicular fortitude to go for it) to dispense with the two year notice period and stop subsidising our Continental chums sooner.

We would then trade with the EU on World Trade Organisation (WTO) standard terms, which will allow either side to impose tariffs averaging 2.3% on imports of non-agricultural goods (agriculture is a pampered business everywhere and the WTO has failed to broker any agreement to reduce protectionist tariffs). Britain is of course free to impose no tariffs on EU goods. The WTO sets a maximum, but no minimum. In my view that is precisely what we should do. It helps our consumers not one jot or tittle to pay more for our Audis and Camembert. As a supporter of free markets, not crony capitalism, I favour the consumer over the producer every time.

One can love capitalism without loving capitalists - or at least not loving them more than ones fellow humans in general.

It is likely of course that the mercantilist, anti-free market, corrupt crony capitalist EU will impose such tariffs. It will be true to the antiquated and discredited ideology that made us want to leave. However the adjustment in the value of the pound sterling (the genius of the Free Market at work) has already more than covered the effect of WTO tariffs and the Government has (rashly and wrongly in my view) promised British farmers that they will be compensated from public funds for any negative effects.

Much as I disapprove of that, it will cost far far less than our payments to the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which routes subsidies not just to jolly Continental peasants but to rich people such as the French, Austrian and German partners in the international law firm to which I used to belong, who owned farms and vineyards not to feed and cheer the masses, but to garner CAP subsidies from their far poorer fellow-taxpayers. 


Of Brexit and Divorce

I spent most of my career working in Continental Europe. This is not a "some of my best friends are Jewish" thing (which they are by the way) but most of my best friends are Continental Europeans. As the farcical Brexit "negotiations" continue, my personal Facebook page is therefore full of their whingeing, sniping and moralising about Britain's supposed "rejection" of Europe. Perhaps it's as well I have retired as a lawyer because my advocacy skills and negotiating experience are not good enough to persuade them that is NOT what is happening.

Only this morning, for example, one of my German friends wrote the following

Hmmm, folks when I look back at my divorce, it was not easy and I could not terminate my contract and run away, just to get the state of freedom (I have taken over responsibility during the time of marriage and felt to take care of it). In addition, how to explain such behavior (give notice and wait until the term of notice expired to get freedom and feel not any longer responsible for the everything I did together with my partner in the past) .... maybe somebody of you can help me how to explain this to my kids?

The "divorce" analogy keeps coming up in the Brexit debate but it could not be more false. The British people were persuaded to confirm Britain's entry into the "Common Market" (as the EEC was routinely described at the time) on the basis that it would have economic benefits. It was not a marriage. It was a "trade agreement" (that much misunderstood term which socialists and other statists seem to think means "an agreement authorising trade" whereas in truth – since trade is a basic human activity that needs no permission – means "an agreement to reduce government interference with trade"). The EEC as it was at the time was routinely spoken of as "the Common Market" and it takes very little research to find the press coverage, speeches and pamphlets of that era promising that it was nothing more than that. Here for example is an extract from the official government leaflet distributed before the 1975 referendum;

Remember: All the other countries in the Market [my emphasis] today enjoy, like us, democratically elected Governments answerable to their own Parliaments and their own voters. They do not want to weaken their Parliaments any more than we would."

Fact No. 3. The British Parliament in Westminster retains the final right to repeal the Act which took us into the Market on January 1, 1973. Thus our continued membership will depend on the continuing assent of Parliament.

"Fact No. 3" remains true as a simple matter of British constitutional law. Parliament is sovereign. It can do anything it damn well pleases (alas in many ways, but hurrah in this one). This is why I have said before that our Article 50 notice, observance of the two year exit period and participation in the farcical "negotiation" (which Juncker is trying to turn into a ritual humiliation to deter others thinking of leaving) is pure politeness. I think we should go through these motions because we have an interest in promoting the myth of "International Law." It's a myth very largely of our devising and is a  useful diplomatic construct to avoid conflict in future. However, if I were leading the negotiation on the British side, I would be watching like a hawk for a gaffe by Juncker and his team that would allow me to walk out without further ado. I have enough confidence in the abilities of our Civil Service (if not our politicians) to hope that is what the person actually leading the negotiation is doing. 

To return to my German friend's emotional plea on Facebook, I am astonished that a citizen of the greatest industrial power on Earth; a wealthy nation with a strong economy and vibrant culture would think of his country in such an odd way as to compare it to a spurned wife.  To me it seems frankly degrading but then "victimhood" is now in many ways the highest aspiration of modern Westerners. Perhaps this is Germany's Rachel Dolezal moment in which it sheds its unloved identity as a privileged white nation with a history of racist aggression and joins an "oppressed minority" in favour of which one must now positively discriminate?

If you insist on thinking of it as a marriage, then let's at least perfect the analogy. Britain was a reluctant bride. We didn't find the other member states attractive and were very reluctant to get in bed with them, but we wanted the financial benefits that the relationship promised to bring. Whereas my German friend seems to see the 27 as a spurned family to be supported by the errant, unfaithful husband, we see ourselves as a disappointed gold-digger who has been ****ed long enough by this ugly old brute and wants out.

In this week's Spectator there is a review by William Cook of a book called The Shortest History of Germany by James Hawes, which seems to go some way to explaining why Germans and Brits see Brexit so differently.  I have bought it and will be reading it but here's a passage quoted in the review;

…the solutions nations seek are shaped by past experience, and in this respect Germany and Britain could scarcely be less alike. Germans have been familiar with federal institutions ever since Charlemagne. Germany has only been a nation since 1871 and its experience of nationalism was a disaster. History has taught the British that we’re best off one step removed from Europe, whereas it has taught the Germans that they’re far better off as part of a supranational superstate. Really it’s a wonder that we agree about anything at all…

I have failed so far to persuade my Continental friends but I shall persist in explaining that we have not rejected Europe. We have not fallen out of love. We are not a heartless brute of a faithless husband casting one German wife and 26 children out into the cold to starve. We are their friend and want to remain so. We have done them much good in the past and will do them more. We will buy their Audis and their Camemberts just as we always have and will holiday in France and make pathetic schoolboy attempts at their language for their amusement while they relieve us of our money. Our rejection is not even of the "Common Market" as it was sold to us (though we have to leave it because they have tied it together with the rest of the plan) but of the federal dream (to them) and nightmare (to us) of a United States of Europe.

 


Of happiness and hope

I am in the middle of what seems to be a month long celebration of my 60th birthday. I am jollier than I would have expected, having eyed this approaching milestone with dread. Of course I SHOULD be jolly. I am a privileged Westerner, living a life he never dreamed with a loving family and affectionate friends. But I have political reasons too.

The fall of the Berlin Wall was the key political event of my life. Like most of us, I had never dared to hope Communism would fail in such a clear and comprehensive fashion. I moved to Eastern Europe in 1992 and, as a specialist lawyer, helped my real estate clients build on its ruins. The transformation we helped the people of the region achieve was spectacular. If we compare living standards in Poland when I moved there in 1992 with today only a fool or knave could deny the powerful virtues of capitalism. The transformation is greater than even an enthusiastic free marketeer like me would have predicted. 

I lived in that optimistic environment for twenty years - never really understanding how naive Fukyama's analysis of "the end of history" had been. Back in the West, however, our Marxist academics regrouped. They began to focus even more on "cultural Marxism"; on fomenting other social conflicts to create a perceived need for a controlling elite at the helm of a powerful state. I firmly believe that such a state has always been their one true goal. It enables them to live high on the hog in the parasitical, hypocritical idleness that Marx himself achieved as he sponged off his naive bourgeois friend Engels, rogered his servant girl and bilked his creditors. All else has always been bullshit.

Screen Shot 2017-03-30 at 08.59.32

I gradually realised that the true outcome of the Cold War might be as this cartoon cleverly presents it. Out of that dark realisation this blog was born. Essentially a solution-oriented, problem-solving, optimistic person, I told myself it was better to light a candle than curse the darkness and spent a serious chunk of my life arguing whenever I could against our fifth columnists in academia. In the last year, the academic Berlin Wall has begun to crumble too. I wish I could claim that we had won the political argument but I think something far more fundamental is going on. There is a shift as profound as when the Labour Party replaced the Liberal Party in mainstream British politics and King Edward VII told his mother that "we are all socialists now". 

I suspect the Left's first real strategic error was its bizarre embrace of Islam. You don't need a degree in politics to notice that Muslims are socially-conservative, anti-feminist to the point of misogyny and - in the cultural Marxist jargon - "homophobic". Leftists in academia, contemptuously ignorant of religion, seemed to view them as just more poor immigrants to vote reliably for the continual expansion of the state. They arrogantly bent their own logic to welcome a clearly anti-progressive force into their ranks. The error might not have been obvious in their ivory towers, but it was pretty clear on the streets of Luton and Bradford. The credibility of leftist academics began to crumble. 

Other errors too numerous to mention followed as the academic bubble drifted further from reality. Most decent, practical people could not be bothered (who has the time if you have actual work to do?) to contest their ideas, but the perception grew that - however many black friends you had - you were going to be called racist. That however much you loved your mum and treated your lady friends with respect, you were sexist. That however little you gave a damn about what your homosexual friends and colleagues got up to in private that you were homophobic. And that pointing out the threat Muslim immigrants presented to Western values made you islamophobic. It became clear that the names you were called were just part of an academic game. They had nothing to do with truth.

As the fifth column's influence intruded even into popular culture, people who lived in the real Coronation Streets and Albert Squares noticed that their on-screen equivalents were becoming preachy purveyors of condescending agitprop. I had long stopped watching the BBC's news and current affairs output because I could not stand the primary school teacher tone it adopted. The same tone was now to be found from Emmerdale to Gallifrey. 

Just when I thought we were all going to drown in cultural Marxist condescension however, the dam broke. Despite being told precisely what to think by an united elite singing the same, well-rehearsed tune and utterly confident of success, the British people found their voice. On the day of the Brexit referendum they raised their traditional battle cry of "bollocks to the lot of you!" Even better than that moment has been the torrent of condescension that has followed, laying bare the contempt in which our would-be masters hold us. Cheated of the cushy "jobs" and lavish funding for policy-based evidence making "research" the EU had provided, they could not conceal their impotent rage. It has been delicious.

As has the aftermath of the election of President Trump in the USA where similar forces are at play. I have concerns about the current POTUS's grasp of economics and wouldn't like him hanging around my daughters (but ditto JFK and Bill Clinton and we all survived them). Trump is no libertarian and is politically as far from me as Clinton. However he seems strong on the defence of the West and - even better - has made noises about defunding academia. If he achieves the latter he may, for all his vulgarity, prove to be the King Jan III Sobieski of our day. 

Even more encouragingly, just as when I was at university in the Seventies, the key voices in public discourse are not now from the Left. Rather they are such delightful people as the dangerous faggot, Milo Yiannopoulos, the factual feminist Christina Hoff Sommers and my current favourite, the softly spoken Canadian Professor Jordan Peterson. The ever more authoritarian attempts to suppress dissent in academia have put feminist icon Germaine Greer on the "no platform" list and made apparent to even a casual observer how dangerously far political correctness has gone and just how sneeringly arrogant and condescendingly  authoritarian its proponents are.

So I am politically happy not because anyone I approve of holds political office anywhere, but because I have hope for the future. The ideologues who failed in their overt parasitism in Eastern Europe and China are failing in their covert version in the West and for the same reason. Their ideas conflict with reality.

The chess game in the cartoon is not over yet. I shall be following the next moves with gleeful anticipation.


Brexit: it's just not about the law

 A lot of time is being wasted on discussion of the decision this week in the Queens Bench division of the High Court. I have reviewed some of my learned friends' arguments as to why the decision was wrong and they may have a point. I remain supremely indifferent. I am not waiting with bated breath for the decision of the Supreme Court and neither should you, dear reader.

Breathe. Relax. All will be well.

Here is the simple political fact of the matter. Whatever his or her personal views, every Conservative Member of Parliament was elected on the following manifesto pledge:

It will be a fundamental principle of a future Conservative Government that membership of the European Union depends on the consent of the British people – and in recent years that consent has worn wafer-thin. That’s why, after the election, we will negotiate a new settlement for Britain in Europe, and then ask the British people whether they want to stay in the EU on this reformed basis or leave. David Cameron has committed that he will only lead a government that offers an in-out referendum. We will hold that in-out referendum before the end of 2017 and respect the outcome.

The resulting Conservative government has honoured that pledge, except for the last three words. Sadly David Cameron failed to honour his own personal pledge to remain in office, serve Article 50 notice the next day and deliver the chosen outcome. The irritation which unites for the first time the British people and the EU leadership is his fault.

Theresa May has a clear mandate and is entitled to call any vote she needs on a three line whip. She has the Parliamentary majority to do it. Most Conservative MPs who supported Remain are indicating that they will honour the People's choice. I believe most Labour MPs whose constituents voted Leave will also. It would be political suicide else.

The Liberal Democrats seem intent upon political suicide. So be it. That Party's continued dishonest existence besmirches the name of liberalism and the memory of the fine men and women who voted for it (as I would have done) when it was a true liberal party.  They have threatened to block Brexit in the House of Lords. Excellent! That will lead inevitably to the demise of that (now it has been messed up by Blair's "reforms") vile and corrupt institution.

When I gave up political blogging, I was on the verge of despair. The hostile-to-economic-reality views of the ruling statist élite seemed to be beyond all challenge. We were locked into an ever tightening treaty relationship with states even more inclined to authoritarianism than our own.  The unbearable arrogance of the European élite was symbolised by the regular sneering use of the word "populism". Brexit gave me back my optimism and my belief in the institution of Parliamentary government in my country. 

I know that not all my fellow citizens are classical liberals. I know that many are wrongly hostile to economic globalisation.  Some sadly are even a little bigoted and reluctant to import the best talent as well as the best goods and services. Saddest of all many of them —  despite all the historical lessons of the last century that was almost entirely given over to worldwide experimenting with its ideas — are still mired in the intellectual bogs of the historical backwaters of socialism.  This, despite clear evidence that humanity has never had a greater enemy than Karl Marx.

Britain will no more be a paradise after Brexit than it ever was before.  But the fellow citizens who disagree with me will be within reach of my arguments. They will share the same language, culture and historical background. Sometimes they will win when they should not and bad things will happen. I will sigh and accept that so long as I have belief that our democracy works and therefore hope that their errors may be peacefully corrected. 

I am a Hayekian liberal and no Tory. I joined the Conservative Party when Margaret Thatcher led it and as a student politician was one of the first people to call himself a Thatcherite. I left that Party the day it betrayed her and have never missed the company of the snobs, fogies, and economic illiterates who make up the bulk of its members. I have now however rejoined it with the specific intention of doing what I can to hold it to its pledges.

I anticipate no difficulty. Theresa May is an unpleasant authoritarian, but she is no fool politically. She will deliver a good, hard Brexit as long as we are all vigilant. Better yet all the anti democratic sneering of the Remainers in the process will laser the political cataracts from the eyes of the essentially sensible British people. They have been led in the dark for too long by the leftist establishment and its toadies in the Guardian and BBC. A new age dawns, if we keep our heads when all around are losing theirs and blaming us.

Bring it on!


Of Judges, Politicians, Crown Prerogative and Article 50

My RSS feed makes interesting — and amusing — reading this morning. Both in the mainstream media and the blogosphere, there are many interesting and strident opinions on yesterday's judgement in the Queens Bench Division of the High Court. Most of them are wrong. 

Britain's Constitution is famously "unwritten"  but can be summarised in three words; Parliament is sovereign.  The reassertion of that Constitution was, for many, what the Leave campaign was about. Many Leavers believed Parliament was not sovereign for so long as the UK remained a member of the EU. I was always relaxed on that point because Parliament could not (without actually dissolving itself and the UK) lose the power to leave. It was certainly wrong to have delegated many of its powers to Brussels via the European treaties but it could rescind that at any time.

When Parliament legislated to grant us a referendum, it began the process of leaving.  The government promised it would act on our decision.  But it was always going to be Parliament that would carry out those actions. I am therefore not shocked by or concerned about the High Court's decision.  That so many journalists and bloggers are concerned rather amuses me.

I wish this was a legal or a constitutional problem to be resolved by the judiciary. I have far more faith in our judges than our politicians. But it isn't. It is, and always was, a political problem.

In this, as in so many other ways the (to be polite) "special" breed of people who are attracted to power over their fellow men have a different point of view (and self interest) to the people they seek to rule. All over the western world this conflict-of-interest is leading to a tension in our democracies.  A tension between the "élite", the demos and "populists" seeking (depending on your point of view) either to bring the élite to heel or to become a new élite. In Britain there has never been any popular support for European political union, only for freer trade. So our tension came to a head over Brexit. In America it's coming to a head over globalism. In France, it's more about a war to defend the magnificent French culture from the perceived threat of immigration. In Hungary and Poland — though they have no immigrants to speak of — it's about culture too.

This does not mean that I am complacent about our political problem. It is very real. Those politicians who would like to keep their season ticket on the EU gravy train will do everything they dare to thwart the people's will.  It is too soon for the Leave campaign to fold its tents and beat its swords into ploughshares.  Yesterday at my hairdressers in Westminster, some Mandarin or other in the neighbouring booth was predicting to his barber that the court's decision would now be turned to political advantage by calling a General Election. That would become the "real referendum" and sanity would be restored.  No-one could then say that the people had been cheated, because nothing is more democratic than a General Election. Right?

The judges were very clear that they were not opining on the question of whether we should leave the EU or not. The judgement was about the precise scope of "Crown prerogative".

"The sole question in this case is whether, as a matter of the constitutional law of the United Kingdom, the Crown — acting through the executive government of the day — is entitled to use its prerogative powers to give notice under Article 50..."

In my view the judgement is correct and changes nothing.  The nonsense being written about "activist judges" and "shyster lawyers" is a waste of bandwidth.  Dangerously, it is also a useful smokescreen for the people that we should fear. The people we must always fear; politicians. Specifically in this case those dodging and diving to find a safe political way to subvert the referendum result. And Teresa May, whose Brexit bona fides are still in doubt and for whom the pointless appeal against this decision provides an illusion that she is valiantly championing the people's will.

Translated into General Election terms, constituency by constituency, the electorates of some two thirds of MPs voted Leave. So for once we can take comfort in the fact that mostly only wicked, self-serving people are attracted to the parasitical life of political power. Few MPs, however much they may regret the loss of lucrative Kinnockish opportunities in Brussels when their political careers end in inevitable failure, have the ethical fortitude to stand by principles when their seat is at stake.

The political battles continue but the war will be won. So please leave the nice judges alone and turn the white heat of your righteous wrath towards the Palace of Westminster again.

 


Am I alone in seeing in this a golden opportunity for Britain post-Brexit?

Apple faces €1bn bill for Irish tax loophole

Apple has conducted itself in Ireland in full compliance with Irish tax law. The so-called "loophole" (aka lawful structuring) was not something devious used deceptively but was well known to — and accepted by — the Irish tax authorities. The Irish government agrees that Apple has done nothing wrong and is embarrassed at being put into this invidious position.

The EU Commission — probably at the behest of the leaders of core EU "boss states" envious of the high-tech jobs Ireland's well-educated, English-speaking young workers are enjoying. — has argued, and the European Court has now decided, that the arrangements were illegal "state aid" and the Apple should pay up to €13bn in taxes neither it, its legal advisers nor the Irish tax authorities think is due. As an Irish politician has already commented, "they want us to tax Apple here on money made elsewhere".

There is no doubt that Apple, Inc. acted in good faith. Its shareholders (probably including you, gentle reader, if you have a pension plan, life assurance policy or other investment as few portfolios lack some holdings of the world's largest company) have every right to be furious at the EU's attempt to rewrite the laws in retrospect to their detriment.

Theresa May's government should make it clear that it will replicate whatever attractive arrangements Ireland had been offering in return for the relocation of Apple's European operations here. Under longstanding arrangements that predate EU free movement, Apple's existing Irish employees are able to move here without restriction and even vote in our elections. They will be most welcome.

Outside the statist, near fascist mindset of the EU, there is nothing to stop Britain abolishing corporation tax (a pointless tax anyway as the burden of it — as a company is a mere legal fiction — always falls in truth on its employees, shareholders or customers). Then watch all the great companies of Europe as well as the Americas move here to be based in a place with the rule of law, the greatest reservoir of international legal, accountancy and other expertise in the world, no retrospective legislation and with the world's financial centre at hand.

With the extra taxes earned not from stupid corporation tax but from the income tax of the new British companies' employees etc., the government could pay for the infrastructure and educational improvements required to make sure the country and the new corporate arrivals reap the long term benefits of their short term decision.