Five Key Takeaways from Brexit

July 2nd, 2016 at 8:30 am by kiwi in america

1 – The Brits take their sovereignty seriously
One of the most powerful messages of the Leave campaign was the assertion that British sovereignty was being usurped by the unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats of the EU Commission. Despite the presence of an EU Parliament with elected MEPs from member states, in reality this institution is merely a rubber stamp for the myriad of regulations issued by the European Commission controlled by 5 unelected Commissioners. These regulations are binding on EU member states and their growth and proliferation in recent years sees 60% of the legislative load of the UK Parliament devoted to the implementation of EU mandates. The increasing power of the European Court of Justice over ever widening categories of issues sees British courts more and more subject to review and veto by EU courts. Whilst Britain stayed out of the Euro, EU member states still must keep corporate and value added taxes (GST equivalent) and debt to GDP ratios within narrow bands to ensure EU wide conformity thus constraining some of the possible fiscal decisions by a Chancellor of the Exchequer (Minister of Finance equivalent).

This gradual surrender of the sovereignty of Britain’s courts and its Parliament had reached a tipping point. It must be remembered that Britain’s history differs markedly from the experiences of the other continental EU member states. Britain’s isolation as an island state and its military prowess over many centuries has meant it has not been subjected to a successful invasion in almost 1,000 years (since the Norman conquest of 1066). Britain (or England before Union in 1707) has gone it alone against the odds on a number of occasions: Henry V’s 6,000 soldiers defeating over 30,000 French knights at the Battle of Agincourt in 1416, the small English navy’s defeat of the massive Spanish Armada in 1588 at a time when Spain was the world’s only super power, victory in the Dutch wars of the late 1600’s, the battles that ended the expansionist conquering of Napoleon (Trafalgar in 1805 and Waterloo in 1815) and of course more recently defeating Nazi Germany in the Battle of Britain in 1940.

England pioneered many of the foundational institutions that now underpin all successful first world democratic nations. The power of the English crown was constrained as early as 1215 with the signing of the Magna Carta (the right to a fair trial, to face your accusers in court, to compensation for confiscated property and the need for the crown to consult before arbitrary taxation). The English Civil War wrested the power to tax from the Crown to an elected Parliament in the 1640’s. Through the centuries since the Middle Ages, the rule of law, the ability of courts to enforce contacts, to protect and legally transfer real and intellectual property and the establishment of an incorruptible, neutral and professional civil service that rose above partisan politics fueled the rapid rise of British driven international trade. This in turn brought great wealth sufficient to build the world’s largest navy to facilitate and protect the massive explosion of British global trade and it enabled Britain to lead the industrial revolution. These institutions and features, now taken for granted in any modern democratic capitalist economy, began in England and became part of the DNA of British life sometimes centuries before her rival powers did the same. For these reasons, the gradual abridgment of British sovereignty brought on by the growth in size and scope of the EU, has resonated more powerfully with the British voting public and led, more than any other single issue, to a vote to end this insidious trend so as to enable Britain’s Parliament (and the people who elect it) to chart their own destiny free from foreign interference in line with centuries of tradition. These are powerful and emotional almost visceral matters that transcend even the provable financial advantages cited by the Remain campaign.

2 – Elite opinion is mattering less
The unanimity of elite opinion in favour of Remain was staggering. British voters were told to vote Remain by:
• Most of the mainstream media (except a few of the tabloid newspapers);
• PM David Cameron (who staked his Premiership on the vote), half of the Tory Party, most of the Labour Party and all the Liberal Democrat and Scottish Nationalists Parties;
• Almost all economists and economic commentators;
• The IMF, the Bank of England Governor, the European Bank and if course the European Commission;
• A plethora of major British business leaders abetted by a number of big global financial institutions such as HSBC, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan (all heavily represented in the City of London);
• A host of luminaries in academia, journalism, think tanks and former politicians such has former PMs Blair and Major;
• A large parade of media celebrities; and
• Various world leaders comprising Britain’s major trading partners including US President Obama, French President Hollande, German Chancellor Merkel, Canadian PM Trudeau, all the EU Premiers and even our own PM John Key.

The Leave campaign featured Nigel Farage, the demonised UKIP MEP, Tory MP and former mayor of London Boris Johnson and Tory Cabinet front bencher Michael Gove, a handful of centre right media such as the Daily Mail and Breitbart UK, a small minority of economists and little else. And yet despite the wall to wall clamouring of opinion leaders in politics, industry and entertainment and robust debates with claim and counterclaim, over 17 million people ignored the chattering classes who lectured and hectored, talked down to them and painted endless doomsday scenarios and voted with their hearts to leave.

A feature of the Brexit vote was the startling results from the Labour heartland in the Midlands and the North. The disconnect between elite, London based opinion and the fears of the working and middle classes in the heartland is most vividly demonstrated by this clip compiled by Guardian journalist John Harris. The Guardian is a mainstream leftist newspaper that favours the Labour Party and its causes and so gave prominence to the efforts of many senior Labour MPs on behalf of the Remain campaign. Watching this clip and the responses given to the earnest pleadings of the Stoke-on-Trent Labour MPs in an area that Remain needed to win, convinced me that Brexit was going to happen.

3 – Leftist social media aggression is not working
The progressive left uses Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media to push their agenda – often very aggressively. Brexit supporters before the vote were routinely shouted down in the public square and told they were thick, racist and xenophobic. But middle of the road voters, anxious over the matters covered in my first point, just ignored the abuse and, as the abuse and volume of noise in favour of Remain grew, you got the feeling that the resolve of people in favour of Brexit increased to quietly exercise their democratic right as a way to silence the hectoring and smug preaching. Parties on the left have yet to learn that people who post on Twitter are not representative of, and are vastly outnumbered by, people not on Twitter who get out and vote.

This aggression can be no more plainly highlighted than the disgraceful efforts by some to tie the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox to the Leave campaign and then the petulant sulking of various high profile proponents of Remain since the results came in. Talk of Brexiters’ supposed remorse, the signing of petitions to have a redo, talk of depriving the middle aged and elderly of their vote because they turned out in higher numbers to bolster Leave than the younger Remain voters, support for Scottish MPs to attempt a veto, pathetic attempts to de-legitimise the vote by claiming the result was based on the lies in the campaign and the widespread inability to accept defeat with any degree of graciousness, has reinforced median voter disdain for the antics of social justice warriors and their belief only in democratic outcomes that favour their agenda.

4 – Immigration is dominating median voter sentiment
In 2012 my brother and I visited the home in the East end of London where our grandfather lived in the 1930’s. We pulled up to the home and got out to take photos to be met with stony hostile stares from the many Muslim men in the street. As we drove through the East End and then to the city, we came to realise that, apart from perhaps the odd postman, courier driver or copper, that we were likely the only white European men to enter that part of the city that day such was the proliferation of Muslims, Africans and Eastern Europeans. It had been 18 years since I had been to England and the change to the cultural landscape to Britain in those decades has been profound to the point where whole swathes of English cities are now unrecognisable from their cultural composition for the centuries preceding the 21st century.

One of the foundation principles of any sovereign nation is the right and ability to control their own border. Most people in modern first world nations are in favour of some immigration. Only a most xenophobic and racist minority oppose all immigration. But what has happened to Britain is that they have gradually lost control of their ability to regulate this in-migration. Before the 1992 Treaty of Maastricht ushered in the free movement of people within the so-called Schengen Zone, successive British governments gave preference to the nationals of former colonies such as India, Pakistan and Caribbean nations and so manageable waves of migrants from these regions began in the 60’s and 70’s. The Blair/Brown Labour Government opened the floodgates and embraced the free movement of people in the EU opening the way for migrants from impoverished Eastern European countries and new waves of Poles, Lithuanians, Albanians and Romanians joined a growing wave of migrants from Arab nations. Over the last 20 years, these waves of new migrants have changed the face of Britain in a way that has left increasing numbers of Brits nervous and resentful. When you add in the pervasive political correctness that turns a blind eye to the antics of Muslim extremist preachers, violent east Asian gangs and the rise of Sharia courts and pillories as racist and Islamaphobic anyone who expresses concern about these trends, it only takes a few key incidents such as the 7/7 bombing in London to tip sentiment away from seeming untrammeled immigration.

There were two major immigration tipping points that proved the concerns voiced by the Leave campaign. The first was the massive wave of migrants that swept into Europe in 2015 from Syria, the Middle East then northern Africa via Greece and the Balkans. The one million new migrants that made their way to Germany through 2015 and 2016 and hundreds of thousands more to Austria, France and Sweden and the explosion of illegal migrants camping at Calais in France making increasingly violent attempts to make it to England on trucks has left a deep and lasting impression on British voters. With free movement inside the EU, even with a small winnowing out of fake refugees and the belated attempts by nations on the refugee’s chosen eastern European path to Germany (and even backtracking by Germany and others) to slow the flood, British voters knew that such migrants, once given residency in the county they ended up in, could LEGALLY enter Britain under the free movement provisions of the EU.

David Cameron sealed his fate three weeks out from the referendum when final immigration figures for 2015 were released. Cameron’s pitch in trying to stave off the threat of Brexit (inherent in his decision to hold the June referendum) was that he could negotiate a better deal for Britain if it stayed with the hope of enabling a British government to better regulate the flow of migrants. Cameron said his renegotiated deal would achieve this outcome and he gave the figure of 100,000 as his preferred ceiling of annual migrants. When the ACTUAL numbers for 2015 were revealed, it showed a true net in-migration flow of 333,000 or more than triple the limit Cameron told voters he was striving for when he sought re-election in 2015. His discomfort on immigration was compounded on the referendum campaign trail when confronted with voter questions on the subject of his (and any subsequent) government’s ability to curb this number if voters opted to remain. Neither Cameron nor any prominent Remain campaigner could give any assurance that Britain could curtail immigration if they remained in the EU. Charismatic and popular Labour MP Hilary Benn said as much when pressed by eminent BBC interviewer Andrew Neil saying that part of the package of being in the EU is the free movement of people effectively making the case for Leave that indeed, if Britain stayed in the EU, it could not effectively curb immigration
.
Faced with the seemingly irrevocable change in the cultural face of the country, with competition for work and the erosion of wages from the army of under-the-counter eastern European workers and with little prospect of being able to reverse this trend, is it any wonder the Brits said enough is enough and voted to Leave? Whilst immigration was not the only reason for the Brexit vote, it was a potent symbol of the loss of sovereignty inherent in the EU project.

5 – The polls were wrong … again
6 out of the 8 major polls picked a Remain result on the eve of the vote and the 2 that picked Leave had Leave only just winning versus the 4% eventual lead. Cameron’s own pollster picked a Remain victory. David covered the failure of Britain’s pollsters to pick the Brexit result.

This failure comes on the back of the similar failure to predict the Conservative absolute majority in the 2015 election. In that election, we saw the re-emergence of the so-called shy Tory and this same dynamic was at play in the referendum. Such was the ubiquity of elite opinion and such was the opprobrium and vitriol directed at Brexit supporters on social media and in the public square, poll respondents yet again told pollsters the politically correct answer but in the privacy of the voting booth, where no one could criticise, they voted how they REALLY felt.

Another dynamic at play here was the skewering of the turnout based on age. The young responded to polls but didn’t vote or at least not in the numbers that the 45-year-old + voters did. We see this same dynamic at play in New Zealand with the persistent under-performing of the Greens in various elections. The Greens win actual votes on average 1.5% lower than their pre-election polling for precisely the same reason – younger voters say they’ll vote Green to pollsters but fewer show up at the polls.

What type of Brexit will be eventually negotiated?
A Norwegian or Swiss model retaining free movement of people or a complete break? The Leave campaign never specified. There are a huge number of unanswered questions and complex variables at play. Who will lead the Conservative government after Cameron’s resignation? Remainer Teresa May or Brexiter Michael Gove? What deals will be cut to win over the Tory caucus that might water down the outcome given a majority of even Tory MPs voted Remain? Labour is in disarray so who will be its Leader? UK Labour’s rules give the power to the unions and the membership so, despite Corbyn’s huge unpopularity in his own caucus, he could yet again dominate a new leadership vote buoyed by the harder left activist base. If he wins again, does Labour split? Would a new Conservative PM hold an election and what would be said on the hustings with respect to the shape of Brexit that might further define how it would look? Exactly how will the EU Commission and the major players such as Germany and France react to the formal invoking of Article 50? Will they seek to punish Britain by ruling out any favourable trade deal to discourage others from leaving? How quickly can Britain negotiate bi-lateral Free Trade Agreements with say the US, China, Korea and even New Zealand? Britain was once the greatest trading nation on the planet and less than a century ago fully 50% of the global merchant shipping fleet was English owned. How soon can and will Scotland press for another independence referendum? Will Remain voting Northern Island seek a referendum severing its ties to the UK and uniting with the EU and euro zone Republic of Ireland? How will the crucial financial sector passporting issue be handled and if the EU plays hardball, how many jobs will be lost to the City of London due to Britain no longer offering automatic banking registration to the EU to the many global financial institutions that are based in London? Will other EU countries manage to get exit referendums on ballots and follow Britain? The answers to each one of these questions will influence the precise nature of how Britain’s momentous decision will be implemented.

EU and innovation

June 28th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

A good article by Lord Ridley on the EU and innovation. It highlights one of the factors behind the frustrations that caused a leave vote.

The total value of “unicorns” (billion-dollar tech start-ups) created in Europe is about half of Facebook’s valuation alone. (Britain has the most of those European unicorns.) Spotify, the music-streaming firm based in Stockholm, is the nearest Europe has to a digital giant — and it is now threatening to leave Sweden for America. Carl Bildt, former prime minister of Sweden, and chairman of the Global Commission on Internet Governance, recently made a speech in which he said that “Europe is lagging behind and the gap with the US is widening”. In 2001, he said, Europe was investing 80 per cent as much in digital as the US. Today that proportion is just 60 per cent.
 
Fortunately, our masters in Brussels have a plan. Unlike us, you see, they do know what is coming next in tech, being altogether wiser folk. The European Commission, as part of its “digital agenda”, has unveiled a €5 billion action plan to “unify and galvanise” Europe’s progress towards the “fourth industrial revolution”. According to the EurActiv website it wants to “put in place all the necessary building blocks for the next industrial phase so that European firms remain [sic] in the driving seat”.
 
Fine words. Yet to achieve this, what’s needed is not the picking of winners, or even the setting of standards, indeed nothing top-down at all. What’s needed is the general encouragement of the conditions under which bright people set up businesses and engage in massive amounts of trial and error to discover unpredictable opportunities. That means generous tax breaks for entrepreneurs, light-touch regulation, access to global talent and tolerance of failure. Then stand back and let a thousand flowers bloom.
 
Yet there is no sign of such policies being discussed in Brussels. The measures the commission is currently proposing are making it harder to do digital business. Prominent among them is the general data protection regulation (GDPR), agreed in April with very little fanfare and coming into force by 2018. It’s a “regulation” not a directive, which is the commission’s preferred new way of doing things these days — that way it does not even have to waft through parliament, but just lands in our law unscrutinised by any national democracy. A harbinger of how the EU will be run from the centre if we vote to remain.
 
The GDPR punishes any company that mishandles data with a fine of up to 4 per cent of turnover — which could wipe out all profits in a low-margin sector — or ¤20 million, whichever is the larger. Instead of leaving it up to national information commissioners to set standards for data protection and limiting the risk to any one state, it makes the concept transnational. So the whole company will be vulnerable to a data-handling mistake in the weakest subsidiary or partner.
 
You can see where this came from: European politicians suspicious at what the likes of Google do with “our” data. But it will have a deterrent effect on home-grown digital companies trying to “enrich European citizens’ lives by discovering solutions to challenges in health care, education, or the environment” as Robert Atkinson, president of the think tank the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, puts it. One entrepreneur tells me: “If there is a more potent impediment to free trade over national borders between companies that will have to rely upon their partners’ resilient and robust compliance procedures, I should be very surprised.”
 
Tech entrepreneurs say that the additional cost to companies (and perhaps public-sector bodies) of trying to protect themselves in the light of the GDPR is likely to be prohibitive. Handling data about people is what digital companies do, and while it is right to insist they do not mess up, it is wrong to extend the concept of private property too literally into cyberspace. We do not punish people for discussing other people in pubs, after all.
 
Europe’s biggest problem is its inability to achieve significant economic growth, unlike all the other continents. Ordinary macroeconomic management just won’t do: we need to rediscover the passion for innovation that was the continent’s hallmark for centuries. Yet when faced with a whole new digital world, the best the European Commission can think of doing is putting obstacles in the way of entrepreneurs.
Well stated.
I read the other day the only continent with less economic growth than Europe is Antarctica. Here’s the average growth rates from 2006 to 2015 for various groupings:
  1. Asia 8.0%
  2. Africa 5.8%
  3. Middle East 4.4%
  4. World 3.8%
  5. CIS 3.5%
  6. Latin America 3.4%
  7. EU 1.0%
  8. Euro zone 0.7%

How the UK voted by area

June 26th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Here’s how the 12 regions voted in order of support for Leave:

  1. West Midlands 59.2%
  2. East Midlands 58.5%
  3. North East 58.0%
  4. Yorkshire & Humber 57.7%
  5. Eastern 56.5%
  6. North West 53.7%
  7. South West 52.6%
  8. Wales 52.5%
  9. South West 51.8%
  10. Northern Ireland 44.3%
  11. London 40.1%
  12. Scotland 38.0%

So nine of the ten regions of England voted to leave – all except London.

UPDATE: Also interesting to look at it just in terms of the margin to leave, as not all regions the same size. They are

  1. West Midlands +548,512
  2. East Midlands +442,443
  3. Eastern +431,751
  4. Yorkshire & Humber +422,639
  5. North West +267,905
  6. North East +215,508
  7. South East +176,247
  8. South West +166,692
  9. Wales +82,225
  10. Northern Ireland -91,265
  11. Scotland -642,869
  12. London -750,287

Why Brexit won

June 25th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

It was amazing watching the results come in and as the small lead for Brexit remained and then started to grow, to realise that the peoples of the United Kingdom had voted to leave the European Union. Until the votes were counted no one from the Prime Minister down knew what the outcome would be. The polls, the pundits, the experts, the media – none of them counted – just the votes of 33.5 million people – where each vote was worth no more or no less than any other.

It is rare the people get to make such momentous decisions. Normally they get to decide things indirectly through proxies such as MPs. But on such a fundamental decision, this was their decision.

Matthew d-Ancona wrote in the Guardian:

Before analysis, let us admit to awe: the sheer scale of the moment requires it. The word “historic” is deployed too lazily in political discourse. But it is entirely appropriate this morning. This is a hugely significant day in British (and European) history.

When a party loses an election, its soon-to-be-ex-leader rallies the troops and promises a different result next time. But no such option is open to the crushed chieftains of remain today. There is no “next time”.

This was a unique opportunity to seal Britain’s relationship with the European Union, or to end it. And the voters – at a high level of turnout – decided that it was time to go. They heard the warnings, listened to experts of every kind tell them that Brexit meant disaster, watched the prime minister as he urged them not to take a terrible risk. And their answer was: get stuffed.

So why did they vote for Brexit, despite all the warnings? I think there were three reasons – two major and one minor.

1. Democracy

The EU overall has been a force for good with many benefits for many people. However it is not what most would regard as a democratic government. The heart of democracy is that the people can sack a Government they have got weary of.  There was no real way for the people of Europe or the UK to sack the EU Government when they think it has got it wrong and needs to go. Without such a pressure release valve, discontent grows and grows.

The concept of an EU is good. The structure of the EU is bad. It may have worked when they had nine members, but not for 28.

Consider how unhappy we would be in NZ if our Government was not elected at the polls directly. Instead we each elected a local Mayor and Council (and all at different times) and all the Mayors got together and they decided who would make up the national Cabinet and Government to decide on our laws.  We would not stand for it.

You need to have the ability for the people to directly sack a Government, and effectively choose its replacement. It is that ability and need to be responsive to the public that makes a Government accountable.

2. Borders

The whole point of nation states is to have control of your borders and your population.  This is not racist or xenophobic. The elites who think it is, are out of step. You can be pro-immigration, but against uncontrolled immigration.

NZ has a good pro-immigration system. We set criteria for immigrants and if you have enough skills, education, wealth, prospects etc you can qualify to live here.

The UK as part of the EU has almost no control over who can live and work in the UK. 500 million people in the EU all have the right to move to the UK and work there if they wish to. Of course it also gives UK people the right to work and live in the EU – and that was a great right for many UK citizens.

Now again when the EU was nine countries, this might have been seen as a good trade off. But in an EU of 28 countries, with such a disparity in living standards, it was not.

Think of NZ again. We basically have an EU type agreement with Australia. Citizens of each country can live and work in the other. Not quite as good as the EU, because no guarantee of welfare eligibility.

But think if this arrangement was expanded beyond NZ and Australia. And it included all the Pacific countries who have much less developed economies (and hence many more people would want to live here). Think if it included all of Asia – that we have to take anyone from 27 other countries who choose to live here, regardless of their skills, education, experience, wealth or ability to support themselves. Do we think we would sign up for that?

Again you can be very pro-immigration but anti uncontrolled immigration.

3. EU regulations

A decade ago most of the angst against the EU was the endless regulations coming from Brussels that were ridiculed and resented. However I think this was a minor factor when it came to the vote. The Tories in 2005 campaigned on these, and lost. While people agreed with them, they didn’t think it was as important as issue as the economy, the NHS, schools etc. For the hard core activists, this was red meat, but less important to the majority of the public.

For the majority it was about being independent, being able to sack your Government and being able to control your borders.

Cameron resigns as UK PM

June 24th, 2016 at 9:34 pm by David Farrar

The Telegraph reports:

David Cameron has resigned as Prime Minister after Britain voted to leave the European Union.

It followed a turbulent night with Remain campaigners quietly confident until the early hours when results from Newcastle and Sunderland showed better than expected returns for the Brexit camp. …

With the Leave campaign securing 52 per cent of the vote, Mr Cameron addressed the nation in an emotional speech outside 10 Downing Street to announce that he would be stepping down.

Statements are expected to be made by Sinn Fein and the SNP later today calling for a breakaway from the Union.

The end of David Cameron’s political career barely a year after he had the huge triumph of winning a majority between all expectations.

It may also be the end of the United Kingdom as Scotland is quite likely to secede and Northern Ireland less likely.

And possibly the beginning of the end of the European Union in its current form.

Less significantly Jeremy Corbyn may be toast also.

Brexit results thread

June 24th, 2016 at 2:38 pm by David Farrar

Well Leave is doing better than expected and is currently leading by around 4%. However many London areas yet to report and they are expected to vote remain.

Only prediction from me at this stage is it will be very close.

UPDATE: I think Leave may have done it. Their lead is now over 700,000 and growing. Not certain but would need some large margins for Remain in remaining areas to pull that back.

UPDATE2: BBC and ITV have called it for Brexit. Today is UK Independence Day.

Doubt Cameron will survive even a year.

Brexit polls

June 24th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

There have been nine polls since the shooting of Jo Cox. Six show remain ahead and three show Brexit ahead.

A simple average of them has Remain ahead by 46% to 44%.

If you break them into phone polls and online polls then:

  • Phone polls Remain 48% Brexit 44%
  • Online polls Remain 44% Brexit 45%

So I’d say the odds are in favour of remain but as always turnout will be key.

Very exciting to see an entire country voting on such a critical issue. The world awaits the result!

BNZ worried about Brexit

June 23rd, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

brexit

A reader sent this in. It shows how nervous global financial markets are if banks are warning they may have to suspend FX trading.

Reasons for a vote to leave

June 21st, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Matthew Plummer writes on why he is voting for the UK to leave the EU:

  1. Accountability – the EU is basically an appointed Government, not an elected one
  2. Eurozone integration – will be the main focus of EU going forward
  3. Trade – too many vested interests to do good trade deails
  4. Less Government – 10,000 EU employees in Brussels earn more than David Cameron
  5. Immigration – UK outside EU could do free movement agreements with countries such as NZ
  6. Progressive values – don’t come from the EU but Magna Carta etc
  7. Security – comes from Five Eyes, not EU. An EU Army undermines NATO
  8. Reform – meaningful EU reform can’t be achieved

The referendum appears to be neck and neck. Brexit was leading in the polls, but since the murder of Jo Cox, most polls have shown Brexit now slightly behind.

UK Field Marshal says NZ Army preferable to a EU Army

June 20th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Telegraph reports:

In February, this newspaper ran a letter from several of Britain’s most senior retired military leaders, in favour of a Remain vote in the coming referendum. ‘Will Britain be safer inside the EU or outside it?’ the letter asked, ‘When we look at the world today, there seems to us only one answer.’

The second most senior signature on that letter was that of Lord Guthrie, the last Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) to have run our armed forces in a  period of military success (the Balkan conflicts at the end of the last century and the rescue of Sierra Leone), and the last general to have been made a Field Marshal. But now, nearly four months later, I have been invited to talk to Lord Guthrie in his central London flat, because he has changed his mind.

 Why has he?
What has changed his mind? It is his anxiety about a growing EU role in defence, leading to a European Army. ‘I think a European Army could damage NATO. It is expensive. It’s unnecessary duplication to have it. It would appeal to some euro vanity thing.’
He says needing all countries to agree to act would be damaging:
Besides, there are serious differences between EU member states. In the Balkans in the 1990s, for example, German attitudes to Croatia created a sort of paralysis which, Lord Guthrie believes, led to the unnecessary loss of thousands of lives. ‘To get 28 people sitting round a table being decisive is very, very difficult. If you have a European Army, you will find that lots of those taking part will see it as a way of getting a seat at the top table as cheaply as they possibly can.  Then they can actually do less, and the equipment programmes and the size of the forces suffer. When it comes to leading, you want a very clear chain of command, capable of making quick decisions.’
It is so much better to make defence arrangements with countries, whether European or not, which are ready to act. Nations like Australia ‘which has a jolly good army and one which is prepared to do things’ and New Zealand, are much more useful to deal with than a European army.
Good praise from such a senior officer.

Will Mair stop Brexit?

June 20th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A man charged with murdering British politician Jo Cox gave his name as “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain” in court.

Thomas Mair, 52, made the statement when he was asked to identify himself at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in central London on Saturday (local time).

Mair has suspected ties to far-right groups and has been described as a loner by neighbours who said he liked gardening and showed no signs of being radicalised.

It seems pretty clear that while had had serious mental illnesses, his motivation was political – making this an act of terrorism.

While his comments in court may not explicitly be about the EU referendum, most would interpret them as wanting Britain to leave. Brexit has been leading in the polls, and had momentum. It is possible that his actions may trigger a backlash against Brexit and make it more likely the British vote to remain in the EU – achieving the exact opposite to what he wanted.

Records have surfaced showing Mair subscribed to a far-right publication and sought information from white supremacist groups. His younger brother also revealed Mair had a history of mental illness for which he received treatment.

Whether or not he is found insane, he should never be back in the community.

Brexit now leading

June 15th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

David Cameron has stood aside from active campaigning in order to make way for a push by Labour , as the party’s MPs admit that the response on the doorstep in its heartlands suggests leave campaigners’ warnings about immigration are making significant inroads.

Speaking at an event in central London, Corbyn will issue “an appeal to the whole labour movement and Labour supporters across Britain to support a remain vote in next week’s referendum”. The leaders of 11 trade unions are expected to join Corbyn, including Len McCluskey from Unite, Tim Roache from GMB, and Dave Prentis from Unison. There are fears that voters do not realise that the vast majority of Labour MPs support staying in the EU.

The planned intervention comes after a pair of Guardian/ICM polls suggested that support for leaving the EU is strengthening, with phone and online surveysshowing a six-point lead for Brexit. Leave now enjoys a 53%-47% advantage once “don’t knows” are excluded, according to research conducted over the weekend, compared with a 52%-48% split reported by ICM a fortnight ago.

In other polling today, a YouGov poll for the Times puts leave on 49% and remain on 39%, while an ORB poll for the Telegraph found that among those certain to vote, support for the Brexit campaign is on 49%, compared with 48% for remain.

Of the six polls since the ITV debate, the results are:

  • Brexit +10%
  • Brexit – 2%
  • Brexit +1%
  • Brexit +5%
  • Brexit +5%
  • Brexit +7%

A source within the remain camp said Downing Street had shifted from being “utterly convinced” of victory in the referendum battle, to a “blind panic”.

Just nine days to go!

Is Brexit winning?

June 12th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Telegraph reports:

Downing Street is “panicked” over the EU referendum amid growing internal signs that support for the Leave campaign is surging. 

Private data and internal polling which shows that after two weeks of building momentum there have been huge swings to the Brexit campaign has prompted growing alarm in the Remain camp, sources have said.

It has led to a marked change in strategy, with the campaign to keep Britain in the EU now orchestrating a series of highly personal attacks on Boris Johnson, one of the leaders of the Leave campaign.

If Brexit wins, Boris might be PM by the end of the year.

So what do the polls say? Here’s teh five polls so far in June:

  • Brexit +4%
  • Brexit -12%
  • Brexit +5%
  • Brexit -1%
  • Brexit +10%

The average is Brexit +1%. But four of them were online and the phone poll is the one showing Brexit well behind.

More countries turning against the EU

June 11th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

eu1

This table from the Telegraph shows France even more anti EU than the UK, and Spain and Germany finely balanced also.

eu2

The above shows a big reason why the EU is falling out of favour. People want control of their own borders.

Who is for and against Brexit

June 4th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

brexit

From Jim Rose.

They show Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. I wonder what the overall sentiment in England is? My suspicion is that England will vote for Brexit but the other three countries will vote to remain, which will see remain win.

A focus on immigration helping Brexit

June 2nd, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Telegraph reports:

Public concern over immigration has delivered a “significant” boost to the Leave campaign amid growing concern about Britain’s ability to control its borders, a new poll suggests.

Leave now has 46 per cent of the vote share, with Remain on 51 per cent. The five point gap has been cut from 13 points last week.

The poll, by ORB, was carried out last week when new figures revealed that migration had risen to record levels; forecasts showed that immigration would add 4 million people to Britain’s population; and images of migrants drowning in the Mediterranean in their attempts to get to Europe emerged.

I never read too much into one individual poll but there have now been several out showing Brexit picking up ground, after dropping away.

Bremain still leads in most polls, but they are not over 50%. It will come down to the turnout for each side, and what the undecideds do. If they don’t vote, then Bremain will probably win.

Sir Lynton Crosby, the strategist who masterminded David Cameron’s election victory, suggests that the focus on migration in the past seven days has boosted the Leave campaign.

Writing for the Telegraph he says that the “increasing focus on lack of control over immigration and associated message discipline” had helped the case of the Leave camp.

That is the key message that can resonate. With Brexit the UK regains control of its own borders and immigration policy. In the EU, they have limited control. Now whether than is worth giving up the economic advantages of the EU is debatable, but it is the issue that most resonates.

Winston backing Brexit

May 15th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Breitbart reports:

The Remain campaign is “contaminating” Britain’s democratic process by relying on “outside money” and foreign interests to tell Brits how to vote, the former Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand has said.

Speaking at Westminster, Winston Peters, who also served as his country’s Foreign Minister and Treasurer, mocked suggestions Britain would suffer outside the European Union (EU) and said the UK would be welcomed by the Commonwealth.

“The British people are standing on the cusp of a truly exciting future,” he said. “It will not be easy to achieve that future but if there’s one nation that can do it, it is the British.”

Good God. I may be on the same side as Winston on an issue.

Not that I’m totally decided (and of course I don’t vote) but the campaign for Bremain has been pretty awful and failed to portray any positives from membership – just a scare campaign against leaving.

However there is no doubt a Brexit would have significant negative consequences for the UK in the short term. It would hit the economy as there would be two years of uncertainty and businesses won’t invest when the environment is uncertain.

But in the medium to long term those consequences would fade, and there will be advantages of independence.

If the EU was more democratic, I’d be more keen to see the UK remain. But the EU structure is fundamentally flawed and I am not sure if it fixable.

The cost of Brexit

April 20th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

George Osborne has said the British government would lose £36bn in net tax receipts, equivalent to 8p on the basic rate of income tax or 7p on VAT, if the UK leaves the EU and negotiates a bilateral trade agreement with the bloc.

The chancellor said a 200-page Treasury analysis of the impact of Brexit showed it would make British families poorer, and he accused leave campaigners of believing that was a price worth paying. But out campaigners said that the chancellor was talking down the British economy in an unpatriotic way.

The study concluded that a Canadian-style model, in which the UK negotiated a new trade deal with the EU that did not require freedom of movement, would reduce Britain’s GDP by 6.2%.

The Bremain campaign seems to be campaigning entirely on scaring people from Brexit, rather than the positive benefits of the EU. I’m not sure it is a good strategy.

Another group, Grassroots Out, argued that the £4,300 figure amounted to 21p a person a day in return for national sovereignty.

A good line.

Would NZ do better if UK was not in the EU?

April 5th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Europe is stronger with Britain in it and if New Zealand wasn’t so far away it would want to join such a union, Prime Minister John Key says.

Both those statements are true.

However the question for the UK is not whether the EU is stronger by having Britain in it, but whether Britain is stronger being in the EU.

Likewise the issue for NZ isn’t what is better for the EU, but what is better for NZ.

I think you could argue that if the UK was not in the EU, it would be better for New Zealand.

Some of the recent restrictions on Kiwis working in the UK are because the UK is trying to limit immigration from the EU. If they were not in the EU, then those restrictions on Kiwis would probably not have been put in place.

Europe adopts the Australian system

March 23rd, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

Migrants were given a one-day deadline to reach Europe as leaders announced anyone landing in Greece after midnight on Saturday would be swiftly deported.

A deadly scramble for the last boats over the Aegean to the Greek islands began after a €6 billion (£2.3 billion) aid-for-deportations deal with Turkey was agreed in Brussels.

Turkish police on Friday intercepted 3,000 migrants attempting to cross on land and sea in a major operation involving coast guard and helicopters, as Ankara at last showed a willingness to halt the human tide.

From Sunday morning, any asylum seeker who lands on the holiday islands including Kos, Lesbos and Chios with no longer be able to catch ferries to Athens, but will be swiftly interviewed by asylum officials or judges at new detention camps.

From April 4, once Greek law has begun, deportations to Turkey will begin with leaders hoping within weeks that the process will take no more than days.

Effectively Europe has gone for the Australian system – removing the incentive for people to cross by sea and down themselves.

One of the most basic responsibilities of a government is security, and that includes secure borders. People want to be able to determine their country’s destiny through the ballot box, not through having millions of people come across their borders.

Boris backs Brexit

February 22nd, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A new battle for Britain has erupted with London Mayor Boris Johnson saying he would join the campaign to encourage Britain to leave the European Union.

The move on Sunday (Monday, NZT) posed a direct challenge to Prime Minister David Cameron, who has launched a major push to keep his country within the 28-nation bloc.

The popular, raffish Johnson immediately becomes the most prominent Conservative Party politician to break ranks with fellow Conservative Cameron’s vision of the best course for Britain in a June 23 referendum on continued EU membership.

This is significant. However the remain camp has a good lead in the polls for now. The last two had remain 15% to 18% ahead. However the leave camp have some excellent campaigners.

Most Conservative Party members back a Brexit and they will vote for the next leader. Boris will lose institutional support for his stance, but may gain member support – and they will elect the next Leader and PM.

The final UK-EU deal

February 21st, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The final deal has been struck and the UK goes to the polls on 23 June to vote on whether to remain in the EU or leave it.

Details are:

  • An emergency brake on EU migrants claiming in-work benefits. This was to be for four years but now is for seven years. However a maximum of four years for an individual.
  • Restrictions on child benefit for EU migrants will kick in at a reduced rate – indexed to the rate of a migrant’s home country
  • An opt-out from the EU’s historic commitment to forge an “ever closer union among the peoples of Europe
  • UK will have the right to impose a handbrake to refer contentious financial regulation to a meeting of EU leaders in the European council

It will be interesting to see which Ministers are for or against Brexit. Michael Gove is going to campaign to leave and he is popular and respected. This is no surprise though.

The real interest will be on what Boris does?

If the public vote to leave the EU, it is hard to see Cameron being able to remain as PM for long. This is good for those who want his job.

However if you campaign for Brexit and force the PM out, the party may blame you for the result.

Normally a party will be highly focused on unity but with UK Labour so divided and unelectable, the Conservatives can take more risks than normal.

The UK EU deal

February 11th, 2016 at 8:41 am by David Farrar

The Telegraph reports:

Cabinet ministers are threatening to defy David Cameron by publicly speaking out against his deal with the European Union, which they are warning will fail to cut migration.

The Prime Minister was handed an offer on Tuesday by Brussels which critics said contained only “watered-down” pledges. The deal will give EU migrants “gradually increasing access” to benefits after they come to the UK – as opposed to the outright ban Mr Cameron had previously demanded.

Despite critics describing the deal as “pathetic” and “insubstantial”, Mr Cameron welcomed the offer by Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, and said he “sure would” take the deal being offered.

Last night Cabinet sources accused Mr Cameron of effectively beginning the campaign for Britain to stay in the EU and warned that they will now start speaking out in favour of a “Brexit”.

Cameron has in fact managed to get some reasonable concessions. It remains to be seen whether the electorate judge them to be enough.
But in a boost to him, Theresa May has said she will now campaign to remain in. She was seen as a potential leader for an out campaign.
The main points of the deal are:
  • An emergency brake will limit migrants’ access to benefits for four years
  • New powers to stop suspected terrorists and criminals coming to the UK, not only if a threat is “imminent”
  • New rules will stop people coming to the UK via “sham marriages”
  • Recognises that the UK “is not committed to further political integration into the European Union”
  • A “red card” system will allow the House of Commons to band together with like-minded EU parliaments and block unwanted Brussels legislation

An FTA with the EU

October 19th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The ink is barely dry on the TPP and New Zealand has the prospect of another giant free trade deal in the offing with the European Union taking the first steps towards an FTA with New Zealand.

It was announced early this morning that the EU Commission will seek to negotiate separate FTAs with both New Zealand and Australia as part of its trade strategy for the next four years.

The caveat is that talks will take in account “EU agricultural sensitivities.”

That’s great news.

It won’t be a gold standard one as the EU Common Agricultural Policy is too entrenched. But if we can make progress towards liberalisation, that would be excellent.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom told the New Zealand Herald after the release of the strategy that it made political and economic sense to hold talks with New Zealand.

“When I started this job [a year ago] I was a bit surprised that we have free trade agreements either concluded or ongoing with so many part of the world but not with New Zealand and Australia who are national allies, friends, partners in so many other issues.”

Talks were happening already to establish the level of ambition which would be announced soon.

Yep long overdue.

Agriculture in the EU is still heavily subsidised, with payments under the Common Agriculture Policy accounting for 40 per cent of the EU budget but the levels of subsidy are reducing over time.

Ridiculous. NZ is proof that the agricultural sector actually does better without subsidies.

Can the EU force countries to take refugees?

September 24th, 2015 at 11:21 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The European Union approved a plan on Tuesday (Wednesday NZ Time) to share out 120,000 refugees across its 28 states, overriding vehement opposition from four ex-communist eastern nations.

Diplomats said interior ministers meeting in Brussels had voted to launch the scheme, backed by Germany and other big powers, in order to tackle the continent’s worst refugee crisis since World War Two.

The Czech minister tweeted that he had voted against, along with colleagues from Slovakia, Romania and Hungary, with Finland abstaining.

So being a member of the EU now means other countries decide your refugee quota for you.  What will they do if countries refuse?

At present most in the UK want to remain in the EU, but how the EU deals with this issue may change that.

Prague had earlier warned that any attempt to impose such a scheme would be unworkable and could end in “big ridicule” for governments and EU authorities.

“We will soon realise that the emperor has no clothes. Common sense lost today,” Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec tweeted after the vote.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said pushing through the quota system had “nonsensically” caused a deep rift over a highly sensitive issue and that, “as long as I am prime minister”, Slovakia would not implement a quota.

And worse:

“If we fail to find the right solution in the long term, the migrant crisis could truly threaten the existence of the European Union. But I am not a pessimist, I believe that we will find joint measures,” Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar told Reuters in an interview.

The reason for the opposition:

Eastern states with no tradition of integrating large numbers of Muslims are anxious about the impact on their societies and keen to avoid any signal that might encourage even more desperate people to set sail across the Mediterranean for Europe.

This is the same issue Australia has had. If you don’t take a hard line, then you encourage hundreds of thousands more to set sail.

Countries should take refugees – but from the refugee camps through the UNHCR system. Encouraging people to set sail to Europe will only end badly.