Saturday, 19 March 2016

Review of the week: the hysteria continues

Well, what a week it's been!

In this blog:

  • Scotland: if Brexit happens, we want independence from Britain.
  • America: if Britain knows what's good for it, Britain will vote in favour of its continued shackling by the European Union.
  • The Economist turns out to be economically illiterate.
  • Frankfurt or Dublin?
  • German comedians reveal a little too much honesty
  • A QC shares free legal advice for ex-pat Brits living in Spain
  • A Sinn Féin MEP considers national governments and their people incapable of thinking for themselves
  • The Labour Party doesn't get it
  • Project Fear links Brexit with global warming
  • Hargreaves Lansdown sides with Brexit, comparing Brexit with Singapore's independence from Malaysia
  • Citibank hits the nail right on the head: Brexit is European-wide can of worms

Scotland: if Brexit happens, we want independence from Britain.  Again.  And this time, we'll get the right result.  Honest.

On Sunday 13 March 2016, the Scotsman published the results of a poll conducted exclusively (!) for another newspaper, finding that 52% favoured holding a second referendum on the independence of Scotland if Britain votes in favour of Brexit on 23 June 2016.  However, behind the headline, the Scotsman reveals quietly that the 52% was calculable only if the "don't knows" were excluded from the numbers.

In September 2014, the Scottish held a referendum in which 55% voted to stay in the British Union.  Yet, less than one year later, in the British general election of May 2015, the same electorate returned all-but-three seats to Westminster with representatives of the Scottish National Party, a pro-independence party.

To me, this has always felt that Scotland wanted the freedom to waste English money as if it were water being poured down the drain.  Ultimately, if the Scottish National Party really wanted Scottish independence, it would have called for a British referendum for September 2014, not just a Scottish referendum.  Calling for a Scotland-only referendum was designed to just-about fail to bring about independence.

The parallels with Britain's (specifically, South East England's) economic relationship with the European Union are striking - especially in regards the democratic ability to define one's national strategy in the world - but with one major difference: both Scotland and European Union depend upon the hard cash paid out to them by London, the South East and the West Midlands of England.

And, according to the Independent, some Welsh might think a similar way to the Scottish independentists.

America: if Britain knows what's good for it, Britain will vote in favour of its continued shackling by the European Union.  To be honest, us Americans can't risk too much more competition in the world, because Chinese interests are already killing us.

On Monday 14 March 2016, Mayor of London Boris "BoJo" Johnson criticised American President Barack Obama as "outrageous and exorbitant hypocrisy" according to various newspapers (for a pro-Remain slant, refer to the Guardian).  Obama has said that Britain should remain within the European Union.  Johnson's retort is that America would never suffer the shackles of anything like the European Union.

The day before, the same source cited Republican presidential runner Ted Cruz's comments that Obama's intervention would be more likely to make the British vote in favour of Brexit.

As an aside, without realising it, the Guardian let the cat out of the bag:

in the foreign policy community there is a strong consensus that UK membership benefits the US national interest.

Foreign policy community?  You mean, all of those public-sector people whose incomes depend on doing foreign policy stuff, talking to foreign governments for the sake of talking?  Well yes, of course I'd expect them to link their incomes with their own nation's interests...!

The Economist turns out to be economically illiterate.  And illiterate in basic law and basic politics, it seems.

On 27 February 2016, the Economist opined a piece about how bad life would be after Brexit, carefully choosing sources of opinion (not evidence) originating from vested interests strongly in favour of the status quo.

Nearly every paragraph in the Economist's piece is flawed.  It would take an entire blog just to point out its mistakes in basic logic, so here is just one example.  The Economist is keen to use current trade patterns and current balance of payment numbers as a basis to claim that nothing can ever change, nothing should ever change, so we had better stick with a cowardly strategy of what we know, even if it under-achieves (and strategically is bound to under-achieve).

The Economist tries to spell out the mechanics of the withdrawal as follows:

Article 50 provides that the EU will negotiate a new agreement with the withdrawing country over two years. That can be extended, but only by unanimous agreement. The article also specifies that, when agreeing a new deal, the EU acts without the involvement of the country that is leaving. To get a feel for the negotiating dynamic, imagine a divorce demanded unilaterally by one partner, the terms of which are fixed unilaterally by the other. It is a process that is likely to be neither harmonious nor quick — nor to yield a result that is favourable to Britain.

Indeed, the incentive for other EU countries is not to act with generosity. A decision to leave will be seen by many as a hostile and destabilising act for a union that is already in deep trouble. Voters across Europe are disillusioned with Brussels. Populist parties in France, the Netherlands, Italy and elsewhere are watching the Brexit debate closely. The EU will be desperate to show that a decision to leave does not have a painless outcome.

(emphasis added)

Whilst there is some merit in the Economist's negative forecast of how some European countries might behave vindictively - the state of France is the easiest case to imagine - it is objectively not in the interests of any European state to chop its own nose off to spite its face.  No-where in the article does the Economist attempt to challenge its biased, negative stance.  Generosity is not what Britain needs, but hard cash is what European exporters to Britain do need.  The Economist seems to have deliberately ignored this inconvenient fact.

For me, therefore, like the Financial Times, the Economist has ceased to be a credible witness.

Certainly, you would not want the author of that Economist piece to manage your investments, or run your business.

Frankfurt or Dublin?

On 13 March 2016, the Financial Times (not a credible witness) reported that Dublin is going to get ready for an influx of fund managers upon a vote for Brexit.

Odd.  I thought the obvious choice for all financial services was Frankfurt.

On 16 March 2016, the London Stock Exchange and Deutsche Börse agreed merger terms (reported by the Guardian).

German comedians reveal a little too much honesty

On 17 March 2016, various news sources picked up a story about German comedians that poked fun at the British for - as the comedians perceive it - their "Little Englander Great Empire" attitude.  One source that positively revelled in the story was the Russian-based RT.

What looks like a prima facie attack on the British is equally likely to be an attack on German politicians, i.e. "er... if the Brits can negotiate less political interference, then why do we still have to obey laws demanded by the French?"

A QC shares free legal advice for ex-pat Brits living in Spain

A Spanish source Euroweekly sets out some advice for readers to prepare for the possible consequences of Brexit.  In short, if Brexit happens, expect to be discriminated against, as France attempted to do before the European Union stopped them.

A Sinn Féin MEP considers national governments and their people incapable of thinking for themselves

Martina Anderson, a member of the European Parliament for Sinn Féin, has commented that only Europe has brought about changes that national parliaments would not have brought about.  Quoted in the Derry Journal, she said:

“Could you imagine a society that had no statutory rights for holiday pay or where employees didn’t have the right to have a break? The air that we breathe, the water that we drink, the standard of food that we eat, employment rights, consumer rights, human rights, all of those protections Europe has brought to us that member states could not have brought to people on their own."

Funnily enough, all of the legislation cited above that applies to me is legislation of the UK parliament.

The European Union may direct national governments to legislate for particular requirements, to ensure some degree of harmonisation.

But the idea that only Europe can have useful ideas for law is deeply offensive.

To take two examples of British law.  The British Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 started life as a bill in 1970, disconnected entirely from the European Union.  It later accepted tertiary legislation to wire its operations into European requirements, without substantial amendment to the operation of the Act itself.  And even decimalisation of the currency in 1971 had a long history of development, disconnected with the European Union.

Project Fear has clearly joined forces with Project Falsehood and Project Insult-The-Demos.

The Labour Party doesn't get it

On 18 March 2016, the Daily Mail reported comments by both Alan Johnson and Andy Burnham, both Labour MPs who side with EurIn (pron "urine") (the opposite of Brexit).

Whilst Burnham acknowledged that Europe is "remote, arrogant and anti-democratic" (according to the Daily Mail), Burnham's solution is to propose a policy that makes Europe even more remote, arrogant and anti-democratic.  Burnham calls this a "social Europe".  If Europe were an elite capitalist club, Europe wouldn't have the beggar-thy-neighbour social policies that every nation now begins to realise it must curtail if they seek to have a chance to balance their budgets in the medium-term.

Johnson acknowledges that the EurIn campaign is going to be tough, because there has yet to appear a single soundbite that encapsulates the whole of the EurIn campaign.  Hence Project Fear, I guess.  But then, Johnson apparently said something that really made no sense.  Johnson said that Gordon Brown was going to intervene into the EurIn debate:

'Gordon’s the man who kept us out of the single currency more than anyone else, so we want to deploy him somewhere in the UK rather than just in Scotland. 

'We think that powerful intervention from a Chancellor who kept us out the single currency would be really good.'

Erm... what?  Eh?  How does that work?!

Project Fear links Brexit with global warming

The Financial Times - presumably its continuing hysterical contribution to Project Fear - has concocted a story that seeks to link Brexiteers with climate change denialism.

Worst, the FT is keen to quote a Conservative peer, Lord Deben, who chairs the Committee on Climate Change.  The FT wrote:

EU countries have collectively agreed to a range of climate policies that the UK has helped to shape, such as long-term emissions reduction targets and a carbon trading scheme that puts a price on greenhouse gas pollution.

But Lord Deben said it would be easier for UK critics to attack such policies if Britain left the EU.

“If you’re outside, it’s so much easier to say ‘Oh well, we don’t any longer have to think about things in that way and we’re already doing X, Y and Z, so why should we do A, B and C?’ ” he said.

But the Paris agreement has nothing to do with the European Union.

So, more scaremongering by the FT.  Project Fear in motion.

Hargreaves Lansdown sides with Brexit, comparing Brexit with Singapore's independence from Malaysia

On 18 March 2016, Breitbart and Daily Telegraph reported some content of an interview with Peter Hargreaves, founded of listed financial advisors Hargreaves Lansdown.

Hargreaves likens Brexit with Singapore's independence from Malaysia and pours cold water on the idea that financial deals will stop suddenly and unilaterally if the British vote Brexit.  He added that “most people don’t want to work in Frankfurt”.  (The Evening Standard suggested otherwise on 16 February 2016; the Evening Standard is a newspaper local to London, so the piece might be a glossed piece of public relations from the Frankfurt tourist office.)

The Daily Telegraph also cited a report by the Centre for Economic Performance which had magicked up some numbers to say that leaving the EU would result in a fall in ordinary people's standards of living.  Very doubtful, because such numbers can only come from models and the Brexit issue offers no evidence for changes to economic or financial models.

Citibank hits the nail right on the head: Brexit is European-wide can of worms

On 18 March 2016, the Daily Telegraph cited Citibank:

"We believe the UK’s EU referendum has probably opened up a can of worms, which will create persistent political and economic uncertainties even in the event that the UK votes to stay in," said Michael Saunders, chief UK economist at Citi.

Bingo.  On this point, Michael Saunders and the above-cited German comedians have seen the same thing.

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