It is time for us to consider how the UK should use its new won powers of self government once the notification has been sent that we are leaving. The Repeal Bill should more properly be called the Great Continuity Bill, as it will simply confirm all current EU laws and policies as good UK laws and policies. As soon as it is through the UK Parliament can then get to work amending and improving the inherited law. The most obvious place to start is fishing.
The UK as a sovereign country again can establish its territorial waters out to 200 miles from our coast or to the media line with another country’s seaside. The UK can decide what regulations to impose on fishing in these waters. Out must go the idea of quotas with discards of dead fish. The first new rule should be that the fisherman lands all his catch, rather than waste dead fish by putting them back. With modern technology the Regulator could see what is being caught and could if damage is being done to our fishing grounds require the fisherman to move on or amend his fishing practice. A local regulator should be able help fishermen choose the right net mesh and find the best locations to take more of the fish we want to catch and avoid more damage by catching too many of the wrong size and kind of fish.
The UK will of course need to discuss its new arrangements with neighbouring countries, including Iceland and Norway outside the EU, and France and the Netherlands inside the EU. There is also the issue of current rights to quota held by Spanish and other fishing interests. Do you think there should be some kind of transitional arrangement for those who have bought businesses and quota? What rights will these fishing businesses have when we decide to change our approach and are no longer under the control of the Common Fishery policy?
The UK will be a full member again of the world bodies for fishing.
I see Mr Blair and others are out and about complaining that the centre is not strong enough. He thinks the centre ground needs reinforcing, as he dislikes the way it is assailed by Brexiteers of all persuasions, and by the Corbyn tendency in the Labour party. He still sees new Labour as ideal, as the perfect balance between “the extremes”. It is high time this piece of self serving nonsense was exposed to some criticism.
The problems with New Labour were their three main extremisms.
They took an extreme view about UK intervention in Middle Eastern wars, believing we could use military force to create liberal democracies in various Middle Eastern countries. The public disagreed, and the results of their military actions despite much bravery and heroic effort by our forces were disappointing. They did not understand or manage the politics of the MIddle Eastern countries well, relying too much on force.
They took an extreme view about the ability of the economy to withstand a huge build up in public and private debt and credit, before making an even more extreme judgement to bring some banks crashing down for no good reason. They told us they had abolished the boom-bust cycle, only to preside over the biggest boom-bust since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
They took an extreme view about EU integration and government. Whilst telling us each Treaty was a mild tidying up exercise with all the potency of the Beano, they signed the UK up to a comprehensive cradle of laws and controls making democratic government in the UK difficult. They always denied the public a referendum vote on their centralising tendencies, always denied their significance, and always claimed when challenged that EU laws were for the best regardless of what they said. Their EU actions led directly to the referendum which they helped lose.
Mr Blair needs to grasp that the world has moved on from New Labour. We now know their economic claims were false, as their era ended with major recession and banking crash. We know their EU policy was based on the lie that the EU was only of interest to Conservatives, and that nothing important was happening. We know their policy of favouring large corporations and encouraging cheap labour from the continent to take the low paid jobs they created was not popular with many voters.
The countries experiencing some reasonable recovery in demand are all experiencing an upturn in inflation of a similar magnitude. Slow growth economies have also experienced a rise thanks to oil and commodity prices, but less so than the faster growing ones.
Spain leads the pack with 3% inflation, followed by the US with 2.7%. The UK at 2.3% is close to Germany at 2.2%.
This is not some Brexit related phenomenon!
I signed the letter about BBC coverage of Brexit which was published today. On Radio 4 there is a never ending repeat of the same tired old story that some people think Brexit will damage the economy sometime soon, whilst ignoring all the evidence that the economy has been quite unaffected by the Brexit vote so far. There are all too many pieces trying to whip up criticism of possible changes post Brexit, and practically nothing on what are all the opportunities for improvement once we take control of our own money and law making.
I look forward to a few months when they explore the upsides as thoroughly as they have explored the downsides. Is the BBC really happy with the way EU tariffs discriminate against the agricultural products from poorer countries outside the Customs Union? Do they think the Common Fishing Policy has been a commercial success and an environmental triumph? I would be happy to offer some balance to their coverage, if only they would let me make the case for the things we can change for the better once we are out.
There are a few cases of newer technology that is not as good as older technology. I need to mention digital radio.
Like everyone I was made to go out and buy replacement digital radios when they changed the old broadcasting system. The fm service seemed to get fainter as they promoted digital. They said they would be better. I was supplied with a digital radio in my most recent car. They are worse than the ones they replaced, as well as being dearer. Nor was it environmentally friendly to have to ditch all the older radios which still worked fine all the time there was a signal for them to pick up.
There are places where my car radio now cuts out in the middle of busy areas because reception is poor. I used to get uninterrupted reception in these locations on the old system. The home radio needs to be switched on two to three times before it will work. It does not give you instant reception with a simple turn on/off button as the old radio did.
There is one room in the house where I cannot get good reception, and can only get some signal by balancing the radio high on a bookcase and adjusting the way it is pointing from time to time. When leaving the garage the car radio repeats itself.
In another room reception varies depending on where a person is in relation to the radio.
Whilst most modern technology is so much better than last century, digital radio is temperamental, poor quality and frustrating to the listener.
I have seen no need for another election any time soon. The Conservative party has the endorsement of the electorate from 2015 for its Manifesto for a Parliament. All the time Mrs May is happy with that Manifesto, which she supported at the time, there is no lack of mandate. The government also has a major mandate from the referendum to get on with Brexit. There would be little benefit from fighting the referendum again by proxy in a General Election, where the polling shows the pro Brexit Conservative party is likely to win. If the Election simply confirms the referendum it adds little. Were parties against Brexit to do better it creates difficulties in implementing the wishes from the referendum. Anti Brexit forces would claim the public had modified their mind on Brexit. The pro Brexit forces would say the election result was mainly about non Brexit matters. It may not be clear in a multi issue election. Many people in the public just want their government to get and do the things that need doing, without any short term need for a new public discussion and vote about the direction of the country. There is plenty to do, and the government has plenty of ideas and Manifesto/referendum commitments to carry through.
Some of those who wish Brexit ill favour an early election. It might slow things down a bit, create new uncertainties. Some who favour Brexit want an early election, thinking it would lead to a good win by the pro Brexit forces, making it easier to pilot through the Repeal or Continuity of laws Bill which the House must take up as soon as the Article 50 letter has gone. The government’s critics delight in pointing out a favourable comment about the single market in the last Conservative Manifesto. That was of course superseded by the decision of the people in the referendum. Both sides in that campaign said leaving the EU meant leaving the single market, which electors then voted to do.
The case for an early election would have to rest on an inability for the government to get through this Parliament what it needs to get through to carry out the wishes of electors from 2015 and from the referendum. Alternatively Mrs May could seek a new mandate if she wished to make material changes to the 2015 Manifesto. I would be interested in your views.
In September 2014, less than 3 years ago, 2m Scots voted to stay in the UK, and just over 1.6m voted to leave. It was a convincing result. It was a once in a generation question, as the SNP agreed at the time.
Since then the SNP has never gathered anything like as many votes as the Independence campaign secured. The SNP managed 1.45 million in the General Election of 2015 , and only 1.05 million in the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections. There is no evidence in either of those votes of more people deciding to back the SNP because they wanted to change their minds from the Independence referendum itself. It is difficult to see why the SNP argue their subsequent polling justifies asking the public again after such a short passage of time to re run the Independence referendum. It is interesting that since the referendum the SNP have not managed to get a significant number of their referendum supporters to back them again.
Mr Brown has decided to have another go at the argument over Independence and devolution, just as he did in 2014 and when in office. He labours under one simple misapprehension. Offering Scotland more and more devolved power he thinks will end the pressure for independence. The opposite seems to be the case. The more power the Scottish Parliament is given, the more the SNP demand. They were quick to dismiss his arguments yesterday when he blurted onto the airwaves. Mr Brown may believe it when he claims he saved the Union by getting Mr Cameron to offer yet more devolution. From my memory of the campaigns, it was the absence of good answers from the SNP to how the money would work out, and which currency they would be using, that helped persuade a majority to say No to the SNP offer. If every time the SNP demand more powers the Union Parliament grants them, you should expect the SNP to go on asking for more. It is also better than having to be accountable for exercising the powers they do have, as they can always try to claim that they need the extra powers to be able to achieve something.
There does not seem to be any amount of authority that leads to the SNP saying they will now get on with using the powers they have got for the betterment of Scotland.
When I as a young man was on the losing side in the 1975 referendum on EEC membership, I did not think we should have a second referendum soon afterwards to try again to get us out. Indeed, more than 25 years past before I and others called for referenda on the Euro and the growing political union that the EEC had become. A referendum is designed to answer a question and make a decision for a decent period of time when it is about these fundamental constitutional matters.
The SNP will have time to consider what went wrong with their last case for so called independence, and what has gone wrong for them since that event. At current oil prices, with the rapid run down in oil output, their economic arithmetic needs reworking over what a Scottish budget would look like.
The rest of the UK would clearly insist on an independent Scotland leaving the pound. Being in a currency union requires each part of the Union to underwrite all parts of the Union socially, economically, and the banking system. English, Welsh and Northern Irish taxpayers would no longer be willing to do this for an independent Scotland.
Scotland would be out of the EU whether the UK is still in or out itself. The EU does not wish to encourage separatist movements within EU countries by offering them easy membership. Spain is insistent on this point given its refusal even to allow a referendum in Catalonia. Nor would Scotland as an applicant country be likely to be offered opt outs from the Euro and Schengen, nor a contribution rebate as the UK currently enjoys.
I was interested to read that the SNP now think maybe seeking to join EFTA would be better, so their argument that this is mainly about EU membership has not lasted a couple of days debate about a second referendum.
There are signs that more governments on the continent are beginning to realise that the UK is not seeking continued membership of the single market or customs union, and accepts it will have a relationship based on friendship, collaboration, joint working and trade in a wide range of areas and activities.
Germany now grasps that they need continuing access to the large London financial markets which do so much to help finance continental business as well as to our lucrative car market. French, Dutch, Danish and other farming businesses on the continent do not want to see the quite high tariffs allowed under the otherwise low tariff WTO regime placed against their voluminous exports to us. The more realistic continental politicians see they cannot undertake the type of negotiation they expected. They thought the UK would be begging to stay in the single market, so they could impose requirements over financial contributions and freedom of movement. It is not going to be like that.
A good negotiation for the UK needs to be friendly, straight forward, and with limited requests of the others. Indeed, it is difficult to see that the UK wants anything from the negotiation that the rest of the EU does not want and need more. They need tariff free more than us. They need good access to financial services and banking. They want their many citizens resident in the UK to be able to stay here. They want the UK to continue to make the largest contribution to the European part of the NATO defence activity and budget. The great news is they can have all that if they simply reassure our UK citizens resident on the continent about their status – which they will – and opt for tariff free trade which they would be wise to do in their own interests.
Many are breathing a sigh of relief in the Chancellories of Europe that the Dutch did not give a larger vote to Mr Wilders, and made Mr Rutte the leader of the largest party. However, they would be wise not to be complacent. Mr Rutte lost 8 seats and Mr Wilders gained 5 seats. Mr Rutte had to disrupt the EU’s relationship with Turkey to sound more like Mr Wilders in a bid which did swing some voters back according to the polls. In line with the progressive collapse of the Conservative and Labour look alike parties in Euroland owing to their inability to influence main economic policies, the Dutch Labour party had a disastrous election.
The EU without the UK does have to find more tax revenue from the remaining members or cut back its spending. It is curious to see how all those pro EU forces who told us our net contribution was tiny before the referendum are now saying it will leave a nasty hole in EU finances when we are gone. Fortunately they need to agree a new longer term budget around the time we leave, so they can decide as a more homogenous group of countries, mainly in the Euro, how much collective spending and taxing they need for the new circumstances. As they build their more integrated Europe they would probably be wise to ensure it is properly funded, with sufficient cash to send to the poorer regions and countries. Other single currency areas send much more money around their unions as grants than the Euro area does. That, however, is a matter for them, not for us. They will benefit from not having the UK in the room trying to stop any budget increase when they turn to these important matters for their future.
Amidst all the hyperbole over short term movements in sterling it is worthwhile looking at the longer trend. Today sterling is around the same level against the Euro as it was at the beginning of 2012. It is almost a fifth higher against the yen, and around one fifth down against the dollar. Over this time period the dollar has been strong against all major currencies, running with higher interest rates and expectations of higher rates than elsewhere in the advanced world. The yen has been particularly weak thanks to negative rates and the creation so many extra yen by the authorities.
One of the odd features of the protracted and often repetitious UK debate about Brexit is the wish of so many to look for weaknesses and problems on the UK side, and to fail to analyse the weaknesses and difficulties on the EU side in the forthcoming talks. On Tuesday I pointed out to the PM during the exchanges on her statement about the EU summit that the questions to be asked need to be asked of the 27.
I began by asking how can a group of civilised democracies that are meant to believe in decent values not reassure British citizens living on the continent legally that they can stay there after exit? I do not for one moment think the Spaniards will want to evict UK pensioners living in their own villas on the Costa Brava, for example. Nor do I see how they could do so legally. However, why is it asking too much of the EU and the Spanish government not to confirm that of course they are welcome to stay. After all, the UK government has been very clear that we would like all EU citizens legally in the UK to stay as long as they wish, but do need similar confirmation for our citizens on the continent.
I also asked for confirmation that it is clearly in the interests of business and governments on the continent to carry on trading tariff free, with no more barriers than they currently face, once the UK has left. The UK will willingly offer continental countries tariff free access to our market as long as we have the same to theirs. The choice rests with them, as the UK would recommend tariff free but can live with WTO most favoured nation terms.
Whilst we are about it, we should ask the rest of the EU how they intend to implement their Treaty obligation to have good relations with neighbouring states and to promote trade with them. As the EU is always keen to ensure we follow the letter as well as the spirit of the Treaty I assume the same applies on this important issue.
The UK voted to take back control of our laws, our money and our borders. We are doing so based on the referendum of the UK voters, and now also on the back of a Commons vote with a majority of 372 to leave. Under the Treaty we do not owe them any money apart from our regular contributions.