Has the EU learned anything about Brexit?

I made the mistake of agreeing to an interview from German TV yesterday in London. I assume as they are intelligent people, their pro EU bullying questions presumably came from the EU and or the German authorities.

Why were we risking a border in Ireland? I explained again the UK was not proposing any new physical barriers. They seemed to think there was no border at the moment, ignoring the obvious differences between the UK and the Republic of Ireland . There is already an Excise and Vat Border.

But surely there would need to be a border for the tariffs, they asked? The current border can handle tariffs in the same way as we handle excise and VAT today. There is a free travel area which will continue. The only threat of new physical border controls comes from the EU. How many more times do we have to explain this? Why do they never ask the EU what they are playing at using the border issue in this way? What controls will the EU place on their side of the border?

I was asked why we are breaking the Good Friday Agreement. I explained we are not. They could not explain which clause of it we were alleged to be breaking. We were not planning a new physical border, as above.

I was asked why we are breaking international law. I explained we are not. We are making new UK law to govern our trade and our own single market which was one of the main points of Brexit. Our implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement was always partial as we included in the legislated version an overriding soveriegnty clause which we are going to need to use given their persistent wish to boss us about.

I was asked how we would handle Tge tariffs when they come in. I explained that we would decide what tariffs to impose on imports, not them. I pointed out that their high tariffs were reserved for foodstuffs from outside the EU, where we have a massive trade deficit with them. The issue is how will they manage our tariffs as exporters to us, if they renege on their promise to agree a tariff free trade deal.

I was posed the usual false question based on the presumption that you cannot trade without a Free Trade Agreement, and more of the same old absurdities we have faced for five years now.

It’s time to end the talks. The EU is not acting in good faith. No deal is a lot better than the kind of one sided deal the EU still has in mind for us.

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Levelling up

The government should move on from lockdown to levelling up.

The response to CV 19 has accelerated trends to more on line shopping, more homeworking and more remote delivery of services and entertainment.

This will require a renewal and revision to the policy of levelling up.

The great towns and cities outside London and the south east will need more help in rebuilding and transforming against the background of the damage done by lockdowns and closures.

The government needs to think about how it can assist the Councils and encourage the private sector to undertake the transformational work needed in town and city centres.

It is working on ways of making it easier for building owners to change the use of their property or to knock down and rebuild something better geared to the new circumstances.

It could propose partnerships with developers and property owners to remodel areas of towns and cities scarred by past and recent events, and to utilise any planning gain for the betterment of the area and the success of the project.

It is also going to take a better package to encourage self employment and the growth of small business. The Treasury’s instinct to tax them too much should be restrained.

It also needs more roll out of the government’s training and educational offers. The UK above all needs to encourage a new generation of technology specialists and entrepreneurs, as the future is digital.

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Does a vaccine offer a way out?

It is fascinating that a possible vaccine is announced as producing good test results shortly after the US election. Apparently there needs to be more time to evaluate it, with a possible appeal for Regulatory approval starting before the end of this month. The method used is new, and the team developing it will need approval to go to accelerated production and roll out as the request will be before usual testing procedures are exhausted.

The company will need to file details of side effects and the results of their safety tests, as well as latest evidence on how effective it is at preventing people catching CV 19. Apparently people need to be vaccinated twice over a 3 week period to gain reasonable immunity. No-one yet knows how long the beneficial effects will last.

I have some questions about this. How willing would you be to take such a vaccine if approved soon? Should the early doses available go to the most vulnerable and to health workers at risk, as is suggested?

At what point can governments then relax their controls and allow us to return to more normal lives? As it has been the wish of many of the scientific and medical advisers of governments to use vaccines to end this crisis they should now spell out to us how long we have to wait for them to be satisfied that enough vaccine has been administered to fulfil their wishes. They have been reluctant to offer us a Plan B, so the least they can do is to tell us what are the timings and trigger points for declaring success on the vaccine route.

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Mr Trump’s lawyer sets out challenges

Today Mr Trump’s lawyer stated they had good evidence about people trying to vote in person only to discover their vote had already been cast. In Nevada they think votes were cast by people not living in the state. There are also in some states issues about delivery and dates of postal votes.

This confirms the likelihood of a month of rallies and court cases to seek to reverse Mr Biden’s current lead prior to certification of the vote. It is most important only valid votes are counted.

I did not send my draft letter yesterday and will pause as these issues develop.

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When the evidence changes the policy should change

The government’s advisers this year from the scientific and medical professions have concentrated on one main preoccupation, getting the numbers of deaths down at any given time from CV 19.

This has resulted in a policy which does not give much weight to getting deaths down from other causes by ensuring a full service NHS that can handle all the other conditions that can become dangerous or fatal if they go untreated. I have highlighted how treatments for other conditions have fallen off markedly . I have also drawn attention to the danger of cross infection all the time CV 19 patients are treated in General hospitals or are sent back to Care homes prematurely after treatment.

It has also meant much greater priority has been given to delaying CV 19 infection spread rather than consideration of the impact on jobs and livelihoods, which in turn can have a knock on effect on mental health. There have been no government published graphs and charts chronicling the likely loss of jobs, bankruptcies of companies and withdrawal of self employed services when lockdowns strike.

The scientific and medical professions have made important strides in understanding the virus and its spread, and have found some treatments that help. They have not been able yet to find a vaccine that will prevent the disease in the future, nor treatments that ensure most people getting the serious form of the disease will recover. This makes it important that the Cabinet asks what is the point of a lockdown if it merely delays rather than stops the progress of the virus? How does a rolling lockdown help, given the way that will do more damage to livelihoods and business?

I will take up again with the government a number of ways of helping us live with the virus and blunting its spread and impact as have to do so. These include

  1. Establishing Isolation hospitals or Isolation wings with separate entrances and strong infection control for CV 19
  2. Further evaluation of existing drugs and vitamin treatments that can prevent, abate or cure the disease in more cases
  3. More advice and help to private sector building and events managers on setting up the space and airflows to cut the risk of infection
  4. A renewed drive to help the NHS get back to pre March levels of work in non Covid activity.
  5. Freeing the private hospitals from public contracts that may be holding back the amount of work they do, whilst buying slots in them for specified patients where that offers value for money and extra capacity is still needed
  6. Easing restrictions on road travel so more people can get to work or the shops by car more easily, given the government’s statement of risks on trains and buses.

The lock down should be lifted soon. case numbers were levelling out before it was imposed.

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The US election result

Those who write in to point out there is as yet no official confirmed US election result are correct. It is also true some more votes might turn up. However, the world sees a substantial margin of votes and Electoral College votes for Mr Biden who will now act as President elect and be generally accepted as such. Only if Mr Trump publishes convincing evidence of substantial voter fraud in several swing states and that is upheld in state law courts will the present indicative result be overturned. So far Mr Trump has not produced such evidence.

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Letter to Mr Biden

(This draft open letter has not yet been sent to Mr Biden .I am grateful for comments on it)

Dear Mr Biden

Congratulations on your victory. Gaining more votes than any previous President and getting above 50% of the popular vote gives you a clear mandate for your policy of uniting the USA.

Your opponent succeeded in boosting his vote by an impressive 8 million extra votes, demonstrating considerable support for his Republican vision of growth promoted by lower taxes, putting America first when dealing with China, promoting peace in the Middle East, and protecting individual liberties. It is a pity he has chosen to query the election outcome without setting out convincing evidence of the voter fraud he alleges. It makes your task of uniting America more difficult. The U.K. respects democratic mandates and agrees with you that the results of counting all the valid votes are the sacred instruction of the people which all true democrats respect.

The U.K. looks forward to working with you as President. Our two countries often find ourselves in agreement. We think NATO remains a fundamental part of our security. The U.K. makes an important financial and military contribution to the Alliance and is willing to help the USA secure similar pledges from other members. We support US efforts to secure peace in the Middle East. Through the 5 Eyes arrangements we co operate closely on intelligence. We agree on the need to be vigilant to Russian and Chinese cyber threats, and to take a robust position over trade cheating.

I must stress that the U.K. does uphold the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland. As we leave the EU we have no plans to impose a hard border between the U.K. and the Republic of Ireland, contrary to false EU rumours. It is the EU which seems to be planning new border controls on their side of the border which you may like to take up with them. The UK’s EU referendum gave us a larger percentage mandate for exit than your own convincing win, so you will understand the importance to us of becoming a truly independent country again on 1 January next year. As such we can be of more assistance in world trade and foreign policy matters, and look forward to working with you where our views and policies align.

Yours sincerely

John Redwood

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Review the data

I reproduce below my piece from April 11th. I am pleased others now have come to see that bad data and wrong forecasts are a problem for the government’s scientific advisers:

Review the data

The death rate is too high. Every death is a tragedy. We all want to see it going down. The nation mourns those who have lost their lives to this disease.

Soon the government needs to review progress with its object of flattening the curve of the virus spread, to consider how long we need to remain in lock down.

I am glad we are now privy to the figures the government relies on. In the daily briefings we are shown two graphs or “curves”, the trend in hospital deaths from CV 19 and the trend in hospital admissions for the infection.

It is presumably these curves that need to be sufficiently flattened to allow the government to transit to the third phase of its  advisers’ planned handling of the virus crisis.

There are several issues with the Death figures that need getting right. I think it would be good for some administrators and statisticians from government and or from the scientific community advising the government to spend some time ensuring accurate data. This should not involve medical and hospital staff time which is needed to handle the patients.

 There was a change in the basis of their compilation on March 26th, when they shifted from 8 hour to 24 hour reports, moving the numbers up.  Can they smooth the figures to allow for this?

There is the issue of whether the deaths are all recorded on the appropriate day. The day before yesterday we were told the higher number included deaths from earlier days which they thought had not been recorded at the time. Can’t the numbers to be reworked for all but the most recent by reference to the death date on the medical death certificate?

There is the possibility of double counting. If deaths are sometimes recorded promptly  before paperwork is completed, and other times when the paperwork is ready, there needs to be a check that they do not end up recording the same death twice.

The wider ONS figures are also of interest. These are higher as they include deaths not in hospital where CV19 was present. These include  some where  the deaths certified as with CV19  are based on statements  about symptoms with  no tests to confirm the presence of the virus. The figures include cases where  CV 19 is mentioned where other severe conditions mean the patient would probably have died without the virus anyway.

Hospital admission with the virus is an easier series to get right. Presumably all on admission for CV 19 treatment are tested to ensure they have it, to make the correct treatment available. Admission takes place at one stated time and date, so it should be relatively easy to get a clean series of numbers that are accurate. A simple check would be to compare bed numbers and occupancy rates by hospital and to examine any outliers.

This is such an important decision both to control the disease and for the jobs and livelihoods of the many, that the decision takers need the most accurate possible numbers.  (End of original)

I repeat again today these questions

What is a Covid 19 death? What are the numbers for dying of CV 19 and dying with CV 19?

Are the back numbers correctly attributed and compiled?

What is total NHS and private sector bed capacity and what is the current utilisation rate?

What proportion of total beds are currently taken by CV 19 patients?

How are the extra nurses recently recruited and the returners from early retirement being deployed?

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The casualties of lock down

Lockdowns are setting us back. Here are some of the areas where we need to advance.

1 More people working for themselves and building small businesses

Lockdowns ban many from working at all, and impair the working of many others. Small businesses are being driven into debt, and entrepreneurs being forced to ask if they can continue. Meanwhile the Treasury threatens them with IR 35 clamp downs. Let’s find ways of getting more back to work with a fairer tax regime.

2 Restoring Town Centres.

A second lock down of non food retail stores accelerates the switch to on line and will lead to the loss of many more shops. High Streets will contract or close down under the pressures. Let’s find ways to re open them.

3. Levelling up the country

More people with professional and administrative jobs on good salaries live in London and the South east. Many are able to work from home and continue on the same salaries. More people with jobs that are at risk or have reduced pay for reduced working live in areas that need to level up. It is easy for people like government advisers and Ministers whose income is guaranteed whatever the circumstances to decide on a lockdown which does not cost them work and income.

4. Running sensible public finances to avoid burdening future generations

Today the government rightly offers substantial subsidy to companies and money to individuals who are banned from working. Tax revenues will be badly damaged again by lock down. We cannot go on like this indefinitely. The way to get the deficit down to more sensible levels is to get us all back to work.

5. Promoting prosperity and growth

I campaigned in the General election on my slogan of Prosperity not austerity, with policies of promoting more opportunity, enterprise and ownership for the many. These aims seemed entirely at one with the Conservative party’s national Manifesto.

We now have an economy badly scarred by the first lock down, with incomes and output well below 2019. We need to get on with the job of rebuilding as soon as possible.

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NHS output stays low

I have been asking about the big decline in non CV 19 work in the NHS this year. Like most people I am grateful for the tireless work the CV 19 teams put in to nurse and treat those with CV 19 during the peak period of the pandemic in the spring and subsequently. Some medical and research staff have also made important advances in understanding this nasty disease which is a great contribution for all of us. Now it should be possible to use the extra capacity put in earlier this year for CV 19 and to run the rest of the NHS for the many other conditions that need treating.

The government tells me in answer to Parliamentary Questions that it has “paused ” data collection and assessment of productivity this year owing to the CV 19 problems.

They state “we expect NHS productivity will have fallen considerably in 2020-21 because of increased spending on the Covid 19 response and due to reductions in elective and non elective admissions to prevent further infections in hospitals”. In other words, because they persevered with mixed use hospitals with CV 19 treated alongside other conditions they removed elective non urgent surgery for a period from the hospitals altogether. They saw a reduced number of patients with other more serious and urgent conditions. Fear of infection spreading meant more social distancing and lower workloads for non CV 19.

I was also told that “for July and August,( after the end of lockdown), total completed pathways from referral to treatment were 61% of those for the same period in 2019.” By August the NHS was achieving 71% of previous year levels for first outpatient appointments.

This means we are still short of significant capacity to handle non CV 19 matters. It also indicates that the decision to carry on treating CV 19 in General hospitals rather than creating isolation hospitals comes with a cost in lost activity for other conditions. In many places around the country it is possible to designate a Nightingale or one of the existing General Hospitals as a specialist isolation hospital to free the others to work normally at full capacity. We need the CV19 capacity added through Nightingales, and through acquisition of many more ventilators and intensive care equipment for CV 19 and we need to get back to previous capacity for everything else.

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  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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