Monday, 28 December 2015

Mind your language - EU or Europe?


"After several months of campaigning, you'd think that the respective camps would have their patter off to a tee. One appears to be struggling with the basics".




The language used around the referendum debate changes over time as people gradually educate themselves on the subject matter. The endemic looseness of dialogue due to lack of critical thinking from legacy media outlets has contributed to this considerably.

However, the language is now clear. The suggested wording from the Electoral Commission highlights exactly what this campaign is all about:

"Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?"

Laughable as it sounds to have to say it, this referendum is all about our relationship with the European Union. It has absolutely nothing to do with 'Europe'. One is a political institution with federalist ambitions, comprising of 28 member states - and the other is a continental landmass encompassing 50 nations. I trust that everybody knows which is which.

Suffice to say, the EU and Europe are so vastly far apart that they conjure significantly different emotional responses in people.

For me, Europe invokes thoughts of fantastic holidays; a vast array of subtly differing cultures; some of the best eating and drinking experiences I've ever had; lengthy conversations about the beauty of Kim Wilde with continental relatives - and learning to swim in Austrian lakes (nobody told me about the giant catfish or it wouldn't have happened).

With the EU we get different responses. How does it work; How do failed politicians like Kinnock and Mandelson end up with top flight jobs in the Commission; Why does it need so many presidents - and who votes for them; How do people so removed from me have so much influence over my day to day life?

So it's interesting to see the 'Stronger In' campaign consistently using the term 'Europe' in their messaging rather than 'The EU'. At first you wonder whether they've got a disengaged Grad in, churning out memes and being relaxed with the wording. But actually, when you look at them, the whole foundation of this organisation is built around conflation of the two terms. Their slogan is 'Britain Stronger in Europe' and not 'Britain Stronger in the EU'. Meme after meme - info-graphic after info-graphic, it's Europe, Europe, Europe.

They've been told repeatedly that they're misleading people, yet they ignore the fact and continue with their deliberate befuddlement of the electorate. Their aim - to associate a vote to leave as the abandonment of the continent of Europe rather than the rejection of a repugnant and wholly undemocratic institution. This subtle trick, which they can get away with from their unregulated position, is constantly repeated as a classic act of misdirection.

What do you do with this sort of dishonesty? Sunlight being the best disinfectant, I thought I'd highlight it in a video. And it's worth mentioning, each tweet is unique (none used more than once) and there were so many examples that I simply didn't have time to fit them all in.

I'm not expecting the leopard to change its spots but we can always let the electorate know of their little tricks.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Splendid Hypocrisy


Sovereignty [noun]:


  1.  Supreme power or authority 
  2. The authority of a state to govern itself or another state 
  3. A self-governing state
(Note - the term 'Europe' is used liberally throughout this post but consider it in the context of the time, or the source material it's referring to. The EU and Europe are not one and the same).

Volte-face it would seem!


John Major poked his head up this week to declare his considered views about our relationship with the EU in a statesmanlike manner. I guess he's got time for that now considering that he's too old to dip his wrinkled little soldier in to Eggwina's yolk.

Okay, cheap jibe - but satisfying. It's hard not to feel contempt for the man who Peter Oborne describes as sneering at parliamentary sovereignty. You have to wonder why he surfaced with his 'Remain at all costs' message at the time of the European Council meeting.

In his article, Oborne also goes on to describe the historic relationship between Major, Cameron and Osborne who served him at a time when he was be besieged by the people he labelled 'bastards'. Oborne suggesting that the Radio 4 plea by Major was an orchestrated intervention and a collusion between the three. I couldn't agree more. You can read the article here:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-3366586/Theresa-electrify-Europe-debate-says-Peter-Oborne.html

Just as important, Oborne gains journalistic credibility for doing his homework and presenting the facts around the referendum time-scales. With credit to Dr Richard North, he points out that a summer referendum is unlikely on account of being illegal; the Electoral Commission requiring a ten month period between Royal Assent and the vote itself*. It's a shame that so many other journalists failed to seek any council before rushing off to publish the noise from the echo chamber.

If you're still convinced that Cameron's negotiations are sincere then consider this. In spite of his public facing position, that he's battling hard for Britain, it would seem clear that David 'EU cuff links' Cameron has just declared his loyalty to the European Project in front of the European Council. As tweeted by @whitewednesday recently:

Snivelling weasel in action

Original tweet here:  https://twitter.com/WhiteWednesday/status/678120063120121856

If that's how Cameron battles for Britain, God help us. If there's ever a war, he'd be straight in the kitchen getting the tea and biscuits ready for his new friends. There can be no acceptance of this charade any more. Enough is enough.

Caretakers


What we've seen with the EU project is a succession of Prime Ministers who have acted against the interests of the British people from the perspective of their democratic rights. They don't see themselves as spearheading up a nation and protecting the rights of the people who elected them, more like caretaker managers working for a company that's been taken over. Their job is to transition the business functions across to the new model of ownership whilst trying not to frighten the existing staff away (before it's convenient to make them redundant of course).

When we elect a party, we do so on the basis of their promises and where better to look at their promises than their party manifestos to see what they have to say about the EU (or Europe as the case may be). Does the rhetoric match the reality?

Conservatives 1987 (pre Maastricht)

"The battle we had to fight to ensure that Britain paid no more than its fair share of the European Community Budget. We now get automatic rebates - this year, over £1.3 billion."

Basically - a swipe at the EC saying how hard they will fight for our national interests.

"Over a million extra jobs have been created since 1983 more than in the rest of the European Community put together. Unemployment, a problem throughout Europe, is now firmly on a downward trend - with youth unemployment in this country below the European average."

A nice brag about our national strength when compared to the rest of the EC. UK strong - EC weak.

"We will continue to play a leading part in European Community negotiations to reform the CAP"

Promises of reform. You get used to those being pledged and never fulfilled after a decade or two. Here comes the main section on our relationship with Europe:

"Europe Grows in Strength

This Government has taken Britain from the sidelines into the mainstream of Europe. But being good Europeans does not prevent us from standing up for British interests. The agreement we negotiated on the Community Budget has saved Britain £4,500 million since 1984.

We will continue to work for strict controls on the Community Budget.

Britain has led the way in establishing a genuine common market, with more trade and services moving freely across national boundaries.

We will campaign for the opening of the market in financial and other services and the extension of cheaper air fares in Europe.

We will also continue to work with our European partners to defend our own trading interests and press for freer trade among all nations.

All of this will help safeguard existing jobs and create new ones.

We will continue to play a responsible leading role in the development of the Community, while safeguarding our essential national interests."

It's nice to see that even then politicians were obsessed with using cheap air fares as a vehicle for EU promotion. Some things never change.

But largely, it's fair to say that the tone is one of strict regulations in order to rein in budgets, promotion of free trade and defence of our interests. Yet during this period we encounter The Maastricht Treaty - once known as the Treaty on European Union. The European Project advanced significantly at this time, moving in to areas like justice and foreign policy and creating the dreaded 'Euro'. 

Maastricht was signed in February 1992, on the cusp of another general election for the UK - yet it had to be subsequently ratified by the UK parliament. So looking again at the relevant manifesto for the winning party (Conservatives) of the April 1992 election, we can see what important things they have to say about the EU. Let's start with an extract from the 'Forward' written by John Major himself:

"we must stand up for our interests in shaping a free-market Europe of sovereign nation states"

and then there's this warning ..

"There is, of course, an alternative on offer: [snip]; to succumb to a centralised Europe while calling it 'not being isolated;'[snip]. To risk this alternative would be a disaster for our country."

So the former Prime Minister pledged to us, when the seeds of the modern day EU were being nurtured, that we should have sovereign nation states - and to avoid using isolationist rhetoric in order to drive further federalism. Yet twenty three years later and he's doing exactly that on national radio.

His words on Radio 4's Today program "... to break off and to head in to splendid isolation doesn't seem to be in our interests"

Cretin. Hypocrite.

The manifesto goes on to discuss "A Confident, United and Sovereign Nation" -  also suggesting they would "seek a partnership of nation states in Europe, and not allow Britain to be part of a federal European state."

Whilst there was no manifesto pledge to support the level of integration that Maastricht would set in motion, and the ruling party had lost the confidence of many of its own MPs who famously rebelled - Major fought to ensure that the treaty was ratified in spite of the fact that it laid the foundations of the very federation which their manifesto promised to protect us from.

Do the electorate sit through and read a manifesto cover to cover? Do they understand many of the topics that are discussed? The answer for most people is probably not - but it's important from the point of being a reference to the party in question. From the manifesto, we can judge their promises against their actions - and where we don't understand the detail, we use the tone of the message to fill the gaps.

Examining the tone, we see - continual anti EU sentiment; assertion of reform; suggestion of containment and the complete repudiation of Federal Europe.

If you want to read any of the previous party manifestos, you can look at the following link:

http://www.politicsresources.net/area/uk/man.htm

This is the slow, drip drip approach of the European Project in effect, as promoted by the caretaker managers at the helm of national government. The tone of the content is the misdirection here, gently assuring the reader that they will be protected from enlargement and encroachment, similarly bigging up Britain to project an image of immutable sovereignty. Yet when time passes, the opposite is shown to be true. For the caretakers - the end justifies the means - say one thing and do another. And for this reason, it's to our own shores and previous 'leaders' that we should be venting our frustrations; it's in our own back yards that the betrayals have been happening.

I have no reason to believe that Cameron will be any different. Yet he's not willing to wait twenty three years to demonstrate his two faced nature. It's happening now before our eyes. To the British public he promises to battle hard, even suggesting that he will front the Brexit camp if he doesn't get his way in negotiations. Yet, when speaking to the European Council, he's the king of the sycophants telling them what a compliant European he is. I liken him to Grima Wormtongue, the vile corruptor of words whose lips continually spill malevolent dark charms in order to mislead and confound King Theoden. His role is to neutralise any genuine concern and ensure inaction in order to remove resistance when it is needed the most.




Regardless of what spills from his mouth, what Cameron desires is to keep us hitched to the EU. He's made the fatal mistake of allowing the people to have a democratic say and now he's got to make sure that the result goes in the right direction. If he fails to enchant us with his lies, we can only hope that he will ride off in to exile just like Wormtongue because it will likely mean the end of his political career.

Consider the definition of Sovereignty at the start of this post and then consider all the manifesto promises that were made to defend it. In spite of everything that has been said, there has only ever been more and more EU - and our sovereignty is fading fast. It is our right to regain that sovereignty and a moral obligation to stand up to self serving liars like Major and Cameron who would happily give it away over our heads.

---

* For more clarification on the required referendum timescales, this article by Christopher Booker in the Telegraph makes it quite clear: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/12060012/David-Camerons-new-EU-relationship-is-not-what-were-being-told.html


Saturday, 12 December 2015

Turning their own weapons against them


"A 'think tank' called Brit Influence have recently been goading those of us that want to leave the EU, demanding that we answer their key questions and demonstrate that we have a plan for exit. They've repeatedly barked out their demands with po face aplomb, projecting an air of confidence that would suggest they know for certain that there are no happy answers."


Letting the unelected speak for you increases influence .. apparently



But there are answers - very clear and concise answers. If fact, more detail than you could shake a fist at. And Brit Influence have been repeatedly given those answers, yet continually choose to ignore them and continue their mantra.

Take a look here at the Leave.hq site's answers to the Brit Influence 10 questions challenge:

http://leavehq.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=89

So, without providing the courtesy of a response, Brit Influence have proven themselves to be nothing more than a vapid fart cloud of meme generators (more stink tank thank than think tank), lacking the balls or know how to face the results of their own challenge. The one time one of their staff attempted to debate with me online, they seemed to demonstrate only a rudimentary understanding of the frailties of the EU. When challenged on the democratic deficit, their only defence was to suggest that "sovereignty is relative, not absolute". You have to wonder why these people are in the game.

What this proves is that a detailed exit strategy is key to credibility for the Leave path. The majority won't walk it unless they know where it's headed. These are the basics that all Leave campaigns must understand in order to have a chance of crossing the finishing line. Brit Influence know that - which is why they desperately ignore credible responses. They can't handle the truth. If all Leave campaigns exercised the same level of technical vigilance, there would be no place for simpering and unconditional Europhiles to hide in the debate.

But why should we be on the defensive? This referendum is winnable and for many good reasons. Hence we need to lead the debate rather than be reactive and get the Remain camp on the back foot.

Lead with the way with the exit strategy. 






Taken at regular intervals - this cures all known Europhile Brexit FUD

Flexcit is the most detailed illustration of how to undo the EU straight-jacket that there is. Best of all, it's meme free and realistic - providing the perfect antidote to Cameron's planned triangulation of the EU debate.

Whilst the press conduct a Punch & Judy show between two unachievable extremes, Cameron will step forward with 'The British Option' which will be a re-badging of pre-ordained changes outlined in the 'Five Presidents Report'. His 'change' will be dovetailing in to those existing EU plans but he will sell it as his own reform. If there's a lack of credible alternative, he'll get his way.

Flexcit is that credible alternative. The more people that we can share this with, the better.


Use the enemy's own strategy against them.


Whilst the likes of Brit Influenza and Britain Stronger in Europe (BSE) continue to crow that we don't know what the future would look like on Brexit (which we have demonstrated to be a wrong) - recognise that they have no idea what the future will look like if we remain in. They can no more illustrate where the EU is headed than they can predict the lottery. In its current stressed state, which we have no reason to believe will ease off, the EU is prone to make any changes it feels necessary in order to keep the project on track and maintain momentum towards the EU becoming a single country.

Take this article for example:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/eu/12046960/Unprecedented-powers-of-EUs-new-border-force.html

"The EU is to establish a single border guard that has the right to patrol a member state’s border against its wishes, under plans to be unveiled by Jean-Claude Juncker next week."

No, we're not in Schengen, but (if the report is true) it's a clear demonstration as to how the EU works, taking any opportunity to make the power grabs it needs to advance to the next step. Using a crisis in order to further transformation, driving the project forward. It's exactly the kind of unilateral action that Brit Influence or BSE can't predict and don't want to highlight. They'd much rather suggest that we'll remain with the status quo, because it projects a vision of certainly rather than the unbridled and uncomfortable change that is really on the horizon.

Take that uncertainty and use it as a stick to beat them with - then use Flexcit as the lantern to guide us out of the mess that is the EU.

All that said, remember that these pro EU organisations are nothing more than pawns in the game. It's Cameron / Osborne who are the master strategists. Expect some surprises from them in the future. Surprises that go against the grain of the current press tune that says he's going to deliver 'nothing'.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Democracy - Used and Abused

"It’s been a busy week for parliamentary democracy as our politicians stepped up to debate the bombing of IS inside Syria. Apparently our meager contribution in terms of air-power will put our expertise at pin point targeting to use in the crowded city of Raqqa, capital of the new enemy."


The eyes of death! Corbyn burns a hole in the back of Benn's head.




Although this post isn’t intended to be a commentary on the effectiveness of - or judgement on the morality of this action, I have my doubts. “Cut off the snake’s head” someone told me the other day. Truth be told, the notion that we’re fighting a traditionally organised army is not only an obvious fallacy but it’s a lesson that we should have learned through experience with Al Qaeda since the turn of the millennium. There is no decapitation strategy because what we’re fighting here is an ideology that is seeded through the whisperings of a great number of people that may not be aligned to one another in a more conventional light. They have a common enemy, albeit that hatred is founded on a myriad of differing reasons, a common notion that God is on their side and the will to do harm to anyone who is perceived to stand between them and their holy mission. I also suspect that the cells in operation are self motivated rather than operating under a command structure that sits round a table in deepest Syria plotting western demise.

There’s more that could be done to disrupt IS. Working against the warped logic of the ideology and more importantly, attacking the source of funding and the supply of its weaponry. One simply doesn’t waltz in to Syria and Iraq and set up a caliphate. This takes planning, huge levels of funding and organisation. Astronomical levels in fact. When looked at with a long lens in the light of ‘the arab spring’ - you’ve got to really wonder what’s behind all the regional disruption. Was it really sporadic? I doubt it but who really knows.

What’s most important here is whether this action brings the increased peace and stability that ordinary people crave. Only time will tell, although if we look to the not too distant past we can see that none of our previous interventions have proven to be a panacea. We’re still knee deep in what appears to be an Orwellian never ending war.

The war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous.

It certainly feels like it.

Back to the HoC, where the elected recently stood at the dispatch box and made their views known. Watching parliamentary democracy in action is a wonderful thing - the debate so highly charged with so many impassioned pleas being made by the people we selected to represent us. As I understand it, the PM doesn’t actually need the consent of the house but it happens now on precedent and rightly so because there are few matters more serious than those of military action, owing to the huge consequences for all involved.

Yet two things stood out for me; one was a curiosity and the other an irritant.

Firstly, We know the EU are planning an army, no matter what that feckless europhile Nick Clegg has to say on the matter.  The EU will want this because it’s a natural step towards the EU transforming in to a country in its own right.

So what would this debate have looked like in the event that the EU had its own army?  Where would the debate have taken place? Who would have had the debate? Would we have a veto - or even a say? Surely an EU army must have its own authority without relying on case by case permissions being dished out via committee - and in all likeliness, the mechanisms for sending British nationals in to war would be far removed from what we have now.

I don’t have the answers to any of these questions but the thought sent shudders down my spine. It’s this kind of perspective that the people looking to vote ‘Remain’ have to consider. Remain doesn’t mean get what you have now. It means that you’re giving the green light to the EU and local Europhiles to further erase national sovereignty.

Then there was the second point. The thing that really irked me. Many of those in favour of bombing danced with glee when Hilary Benn spoke to the house and explained his reasons for supporting the bombing initiative. Twitter was full of people spasmodically erupting praise at his passionate and statesman like performance which left Corbyn looking like a toothless second rater. Benn has been in gentle opposition to Corbyn since inception and when the time comes, I think he’ll ‘reluctantly’ step in to bring the party back to the centre.

But when he spoke, Benn uttered the words “They hold our democracy, the means by which we will make our decision tonight, in contempt.” - at which point I became apoplectic. Yes, he may well be right - because those bastards must loath a society which enshrines equal rights for men and women, allowing them to deny the existence of any God should they so wish whilst endowing them with the power to hire and fire the people who are in charge. But to cite defence of democracy as justification for your actions only works when you have proven that you truly believe in the power that it gives to the people.

What is a contemptuous abuse of public perception is to enshrine democracy on the one hand and then deflower it with the other. It’s vile a form of insidious hypocrisy and I’d condemn such actions.

So why is Benn a hypocrite (and likely Cameron and almost certainly Blair for that matter)? Because they are in support of an institution that has consistently, for the last forty years, removed democratic powers from member states and undermined the rights of people like us in the process. The EU is an un-democratic institution which has been on a multi decade power grab with the untouchable Commission spewing laws at us from a distance, increasingly dictating how we must live.  This doesn’t just happen though. The powers are transferred treaty by treaty with aiders and abetters from within our own ranks. The people you and I have elected have taken that privilege and abused it right under our noses.

If you support the EU, you support this ongoing process and are complicit in the deconstruction of democracy. Benn supports the EU. Cameron supports the EU - as did that most regretful of Prime Ministers Tony Blair. And for that matter, Gordon Brown is also an enemy of democracy for walking away from the Lisbon referendum promise on a technicality; a disgraceful con if ever I saw one. Hence to cry ‘democracy’ in order to get the bombing you want whilst actively supporting a process which moves power away from the people over to the unelected is a wicked and devious act of duplicity.

If we ever get out of this mess .... the one thing we must do is properly protect our right to democracy and clearly state its definition, so that we can never ever be manoeuvred in to this position by career politicians again. We need a new constitution to underpin this more than ever before.

For an interesting take on the true value of democracy and the necessity for a constitutional convention - I’d urge you to consider looking at ‘The Harrogate Agenda’  http://harrogateagenda.org.uk/

And naturally, vote to leave.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Weird Science

The fight for independence from the EU (and subsequently for greater presence at the global tier) is taking place at multiple levels. This isn't just happening within the realm of the Westminster bubble - even though legacy media would desperately love it to be that way. Science has now stood up and decided that it has something to say on the matter.





When we think of the EU debate and whether we'd be better off leaving, it's fair to say that the average person in the street doesn't spare much thought for the modern day wizards of the science profession. Science is all about specialism; they talk in their own unique and frequently impenetrable language requiring specialist translators like Brian Cox to act as a modern day babel fish. That's not a swipe at science - it's just the way it needs to be in order for them to work at the level they do. From the public perspective, it’s a mystical world - meaning that the detail of both science and the supporting mechanisms are hard to scrutinise or qualify.

The realm of science tends to be politically benign, rarely turning up for a punch up. Politics is an ugly realm of ground fighting and scientists will see little logic in wasting energy wrestling in the dirt when they can be changing the world one discovery at a time. Yet when it comes to our membership of the EU, things appear to be completely different.

Never ever expecting to get a majority government at the 2015 election, the Conservative party made all kinds of generous and appealing offers to the public. Offers which would be negotiated away during formation of the next coalition. Offers which included an In/Out referendum on membership of the EU. On the 7th of May, Lynton Crosby delivered them a majority.

On the 22nd of May 2015, the world of science suddenly blinked and issued this public statement:

Scientists for EU putting their stake in the ground in the national press

To paraphrase - UK science (and associated industry) is enriched by the benefits of EU membership in terms of funding and collaboration. So say the undersigned, including founders of "Scientists for EU" Dr Mike Galsworthy and Dr Rob Davidson, along with other prominent scientists including Professor Tom Blundell (think Charles Dickens) and Lord Rees of Ludlow.

I'm not going to criticise them for making a stand on what they believe - to do so would diminish the type of world that I want to live in. However, if they're going to stick their oar in to the public debate, then we're entitled to examine their position and the issue in general.

In sensitive discussions, it's only right and proper that you declare your interests so that people can judge whether you're 'under the influence' so to speak. The public perception will be that these are British scientists arguing that Britain is stronger as a result of our EU relationship - yet it's been revealed by Guido that three members of the Science for EU board have external links to the EU - with Guido stating - "Scientists for EU receives no money from the EU”, but their board members do…

http://order-order.com/2015/11/11/brussels-bungs-of-bexit-bashing-boffins/

Personally, I think the real issue here is one of transparency and hence subsequently it becomes one of perceived integrity. Are they arguing for the sake of all British science or self interest? Scientists for EU will have to defend themselves on the matter. Personally, I don’t think there’s a conspiracy here, just poor judgement.

It's worth pointing out here that Scientists for EU do not represent all UK scientists. Not do I believe that all UK scientists think along the lines of 'Scientists for EU'. Take 'Scientists 4 Britain' on Twitter, who state that they are: "UK scientists concerned that the EU uses science for political gain." and go on to suggest "International cooperation can continue outside of #EU constraints." It will be interesting to see whether they act as a significant counterpoint to 'Scientists for EU' as the debate rolls on.

I believe there are three key questions that all scientists need to address in this debate. Without engaging in these questions they risk being relegated to political cheerleader status:

Point 1 - Will science funding take a hit?

In their statement, Scientists for EU have pointed out that they are party to ambitious EU science funding programmes. Horizon 2020 is one such programme which will represent a significant chunk of change to the scientific community, so naturally there are concerns about loss of access to all that money.

The stock response to this from the Leave base will be that we’re net contributors to the EU; it’s only our money that they’re throwing back at us anyway so we should have the funds to support science on Brexit.

Yes, if we were entirely divorced from the rest of the EU scientific community then UK science would need guarantees that they wouldn't lose out. In addition, the perception conveyed from Scientists for EU is that we get back more than we put in (and I'm not going to argue with this notion), so to avoid diminishing their funding level, we may have an additional gap that would need to be bridged.

What's important here is that the argument is examined thoroughly and the facts presented squarely so that the UK can make an informed decision on the matter. However, as I'm going to allude to in the next section, I don't believe that Brexit would actually mean separation from those money rich EU science programmes, so this may turn out to be a moot point.


Point 2 - Will collaboration take a hit?

It's a fair question. Although science studies what happens in a vacuum, it doesn't operate in one. Like all aspects of life, wider collaboration delivers benefits. The perception being driven by Scientists for EU is that Brexit will mean abandonment of EU science collaboration. So even if we could secure funding, what's going to happen in respect of our collaborative ability?

Here’s a video by Dr Mike Galsworthy (who leads Scientists for EU) talking about the impact of Brexit to UK science which attempts to address this issue:



It may well be that this was unscripted and off the cuff but there are some statements here that are worth examining:

“.. some issues, as in health, such as rare diseases where you just can’t study effectively within one country ..”

It’s worth mentioning here that the EU is effectively moving to become one country. If the larger the scope, the better - why stop at the EU level?

If we were to step outside of the EU, it would be very hard to buy back in to full membership and hold the position that we do now ...”

Surely this is a complex game of poker that needs to be played out between the UK and the EU. If the EU decide that as some petty form of punishment, the UK need to be excluded from science programmes by some degree then, based on their response, both UK and remaining EU members are going to be poorer for it. Important to note - it would be the EU enforcing isolation here. But this response would clearly demonstrate the value of the Scientists 4 Britain message - that the EU is using science as a tool for political gain.

It also ignores the fact that the UK holds some significant bargaining chips. e.g. Cambridge and Oxford to name but two. Would the EU be happy to cut off their nose in order to spite their face?

But in reality, that's not what S4EU appear to be saying. Look at the terms 'full membership' and 'hold the position that we do now'. So could there be some form relationship avaiable - just not quite what they have now?

At the moment, we’re winning more money from this common pot of science funds than any other country. We've just pipped Germany.

Again, UK science proves to be huge a national asset - that’s surely a bargaining point in any collaborative renegotiation - or is our obvious expertise worth nothing?

British science is world leading, not just because of British scientists but because of all the scientists in Britain - and we’ve got a lot of foreigners here and a good 14 or 15 percent are EU nationals...”

A quick point to make here - I take the suggestion by Scientists for EU to be that we’re going to lose that 15 percent of top notch scientists by coming out of the EU, thereby devaluing UK science and threatening our world leading status. Of course, freedom of movement of labour is a condition of EEA membership, not just EU. It is highly unlikely and unrealistic that the UK will leave the EEA on Brexit so those scientists will still have the right to be here. Continued EEA membership would also give us other benefits.

“..and we’ve got a lot of foreigners here and a good 14 or 15 percent are EU nationals and a lot of them don’t like the xenophobic tone at the moment...”

Oh dear! We seem to have stumbled from a legitimate discussion about the impact of Brexit on UK science to one of ad hoc, unqualified commentary on people's attitudes and feelings toward other non UK nations. I think bringing xenophobia (so often equated to racism) in to the debate is a low blow by Scientists for EU and I'd urge them to withdraw that comment as it doesn't help advance discussion on the matter at all.

Interestingly enough, the video is hosted on the 'European Movement UK' YouTube channel. This would seem to be the very same organisation highlighted by Guido above in his report.

What’s not being mentioned here is the ERA (European Research Area). It’s important to acknowledge that funding programmes such as Horizon 2020 are open to EEA members as well as EU. I suspect that currently EU members have much more (perhaps all) of the say in the direction of that funding and so continued EU membership will be touted as ‘the only way’. To put it another way, the real fear is about loss of influence not loss of access to collaborative science or associated funding. I can’t help but wonder whether adding Britain’s scientific voice to the EEA side of the fence would give it enough weight to argue some right of direction. Quid pro quo.

Point 3 - Is Science greater than democracy?

Ultimately what sticks in the craw, from my perspective at least, is the question above.

The truth of the matter is that Brexit could mean significant changes for UK science funding and collaboration and I can’t tell you that it’s going to be easy or that somehow there will be any substantial overall benefit to UK science. Freedom of movement shouldn’t be the issue here, it’s the unknowns around funding, collaboration and influence that will need effort to resolve.

For many people engaged in this debate, the real fight is one about true democratic accountability. With every passing treaty, we’ve handed significant powers to the EU without once being asked whether we’re happy with this dilution of UK parliamentary democracy. It’s horrendously undemocratic so why should the people of the UK accept it?

When you ask this question and then contrast it with the stance of Scientists for EU - the question then becomes ‘Why do we need political union in order to facilitate scientific collaboration?’

To accept this is reasonable is to play in to the hands of the EU’s wider political ambitions.

Summary

The Scientists for EU site needs to do a lot to justify the stance it's taking. Parading the faces and names of prominent scientists in front of us in HTML5 without addressing the detail of the debate doesn't get it favourable peer review in my book.

If they're serious about their position, points one and two should be put under the microscope and properly argued and debated.

As for the third point - there's some real soul searching to be done here by Scientists for EU. Even if the first two points can be argued away, they have to stop and think, are there any limits to what should be done for the sake of science? Where is the morality in handing over hard won democratic rights, just to facilitate the ease of science funding and collaboration? Are they advocating a technocracy where the rights of non-scientific members of the population are demeaned purely because it suits the lifestyles, professions and outcomes of the chosen few?

In my opinion, to stand up and declare such open and unquestionable support for the EU in this debate is tantamount to announcing the primacy of the needs of the scientific community. Without tactful consideration for the wider debate, they will further alienate science (and hence the appreciation of science) from the public.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Mr Middleground and his halfhearted vision of Bland Britain

In what must be the most desperately stretched analogy of all time - At some point in this post, I'm going to compare the EU referendum to a curry

What is it about David Cameron that irks me so much? He's getting away with it - he's leading the population down the path to 'credible' alternative. He has the best strategists around him and every uncontentious step he takes edges him closer and closer to the finish line. All he has to do is offer something that kind of looks like it's what the people want - without waking them up to the reality of his proposal.

There was a brilliant observation made on the Leavehq.com site today - the kind of observation that Vote Lave and Leave.eu won't pick up on for some time knowing their run of form - and the observation goes like this (loosely paraphrased):

When looked at in the context of Britain's EU membership, Cameron's four demands seem innocuous. When looked at in the context of a revised EU, they are the four horsemen of the apocalypse for the UK. As the EU moves in to a new phase, if we follow David Cameron's approach, we stand to lose everything and gain nothing.

See here for the full post: http://www.leavehq.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=64

It's the kind of blog post that puts shivers down your spine and keeps you awake at night. A bucket of literary iced water tipped down your neck. If you read it and still cannot see the real danger of the PMs approach then you may want to give up chasing politics and put your feet up and read 'Ok' magazine instead (in the same way that during the three minute pre nuclear strike warning - I intend to steal a Masarati and take it to 180 down the M4 - to find some comforting joy before I'm vaporised).

On the face of it, it all seems so inoffensive. Bernard Jenkin stood in the House of Commons today and said 'Is that it?" ... like a luke warm cup of tea, or a drink of flat, room temperature lemonade, Cameron's proposals do not appear to excite or offend or animate or infuriate. If the EU referendum was supposed to be a firecracker vindaloo, the PM is trying his hardest to make it a korma (probably with a plain naan .. absolutely no lime pickle). The blander he can make it, the more chance he has of feeding it to people without any regurgitation.

You need to look carefully at the ingredients that Cameron is using:
  • He wants Euro members to go ahead and create their superstate - yet he also wants respect for non Euro members.
  • He wants a reduction of EU regulation on business
  • An end to ever closer union
  • Benefit restrictions for evil migrants.
He's going to get some notional stage managed victory for these, that's for sure - the last probably being the most contentious legally, but ultimately he's created a fuzzy eiderdown of words that will nestle between the disaffected yet lazy voter and the new 'associate membership' bed that the EU are making for us, in an attempt to create a soft landing for the revised world.

Nobody but nobody can be truly happy with the languid pitch that he's tossed to Tusk yet Cameron's ploy is that the sop will be enough to neutralise critical thinking. My guess is that, in the long term - when the time suits the EU project, there will be another engineered EU reboot where these satellite members will be brought back in to line - and at that point, it will be as full members, lock stock and barrel.

So where are there glimmers of hope? Who is going to upset the apple cart?

The Leave campaign need to work hard to provide clear contrast to Mr Middleground and his halfhearted vision of Bland Britain. This recipe is hot and spicy and contains two key but complex ingredients:

1 - True democracy.

We don't go to town enough about erosion and abuse of our democratic freedoms. But rather than moan about it - fire up some passion and add a dash of meaning.  My advice would be to use "The Harrogate Agenda" as the constitutional convention is likely to be a highly desired flavour.

http://harrogateagenda.org.uk/

2 - The road to freedom.

Nobody follows a man without a plan in to battle. Leadership demands vision if it's to command respect. If you don't have this on your menu, people will move in to eat elsewhere. Only the finest dining establishments will recognise Flexcit as the top ingredient here.

Right now, Cameron is telling us where 'he' intends to lead us - and the vacuum of leadership from Vote Leave and Leave.eu is giving him the credibility he needs to achieve his objective. Yet with the a subtle change in stance and use of the right tools, we could have the electorate asking him just why we need to go there. We just need to show the risk in his milk-warm (I'm running out of synonyms for tepid) approach to our nation's future (as highlighted by the Leavehq.com post above) and demonstrate the potential for top table representation and democratic accountability.

Failing that, our hope may fall to party in fighting. Much as I would love to see May or Johnson destabilise their own PM (and George Mandelborn for that matter), I don't really believe that they will be prepared to put their careers in jeopardy - even if it were for the sake of saving the nation from David Cameron renegotiating us in to obscurity.






Sunday, 8 November 2015

Pantomime Season


"We're rapidly heading towards Christmas now and the Remain campaign are getting in to the spirit, treading the boards and entertaining the masses with petty, fairytale inspired drama."


The Ugly Sisters of the EU Remain camp

Norway Fax Democracy (Oh no it isn't ... oh yes it is ... actually, no it really isn't).

I'd never been particularly vexed about Norway until the EU referendum became a reality and the 'Norway Option' became a target for the Remain campaign. Prior to that, only Adrian Mole 'Norwegian Lumber Exports' sprang to mind.

The Norway option is a credible short term alternative arrangement that the UK could adopt as part of a Brexit strategy whilst working on the bigger long term picture (again - I urge you to Google 'Flexcit' for the clearest example on this). It's a target for attack by the 'Remain' campaign because it's a clear and legitimate path away from the octopus like clutches of the EU. They hate it - but funnily enough, Norwegians love it.

It won't give us everything that the UK want as a nation, hence it is only suitable as a transition phase but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be a first step. The 'Remain' team constantly attack it as if it's being proposed as the end game but I've yet to find anyone in the 'Leave' team suggesting that this is the case. Straw man politics at its best.

Central to this attack is the premise that Norway are forced to adopt 'most' EU laws anyway in order to have a trade arrangement with them. The confidence with which this has been asserted would make most people believe that it's true - but it's not. I know this because I've checked it and so can you.

When the 'Fax Democracy' weapon was wielded by the 'Remain' team this autumn, I didn't see a reasonable rebuttal from either Vote Leave or Leave.EU. However,  a blog post titled 'EU Referendum: the EEA acquis' from eureferendum.com (http://www.eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=85798) attacks the notion in some detail. Citing reference from the EFTA Secretariat, it explains that in terms of acts that are 'in force', the EEA (hence Norway) currently have just under 5000 applicable. It works out to around 21%. Including other applicable regulations, they're subject to around 28% in total compared to full EU members.

For those of us that are not steeped in the wonderful world of laws and regs, it can all become a bit confusing but the blog post not only shows its workings - but also explains where other people have gone wrong and where some 'leaps of faith' have been made in the past by those willing to marginalise the notion that Norway have got anything better than those inside the EU prison.

How can I find this out for myself? The tools appear to be openly available, so I checked the EU law aspect.

EUR-Lex allows you to check EU legislation in force:
http://eur-lex.europa.eu/browse/directories/legislation.html

At time of writing - this appears to work out to around: 23068

EEA-Lex gives you the same ability - allowing you to filter by "Incorporated into the EEA Agreement and in force"

http://www.efta.int/eea-lex?l=English&lang=Icelandic&type=All&f[0]=field_case_status_short_desc%3A11

Today - this appears to work out to around: 5041

That would appear to be about 21.8%, so largely in line with the eureferendum.com figures and a whole world away from the constant tripe spewing forth from Nick Clegg's EU loving lips.


Cameron's "reforms" (oh no he isn't .... errr - and everyone agrees. He's not)

David Cameron's renegotiation has become a bit of a running joke in all quarters. Each end every time he steps up to make an announcement, the commentariat fall over themselves laughing - because it's a sham.

Here, ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-34759063 ) the BBC trumpets his latest one-man good cop / bad cop exercise. Apparently, Cameron is going to give a blunt warning that we'll exit if we don't get what we want. Yet none of us even know if what the PM wants is what we want?

Many of us have a suspicion that all he's really planning to do is dovetail the referendum in to pre-ordained changes that will conjure up EU associate membership status. If you look at his approach, he's so obviously walking the middle ground here, saying the EU needs reform but that ultimately we still need to be in the EU. Associate membership will be his proposed panacea but it seems like more snake oil to me.

When he finally does publish his demands to Donald Tusk, things will become interesting from a number of perspectives. No doubt he'll try to muddy the waters, but will it be enough to pacify the electorate? Just as interesting will be the reaction from his own party because we should start seeing whether it polarises the likes of May and Johnson. Will we see a continuation of their 'wait and see' attitude on the matter or could we expect some unhappy briefings or even public denouncement? The latter is unlikely but once the demands are known, it's going to be increasingly difficult for politicians not to address the specific points and state whether they're substantial enough.

For the Leave camp, this is an opportunity that simply cannot be missed. We should all be primed and ready to respond - exposing whatever cracks appear at the heart of the Remain campaign, exposing it for the tepid and fragile affair that it really is. Prepare yourselves.



Friday, 6 November 2015

The Circle Jerk Effect

Sometimes we have to give things up for the greater good and step outside our comfort zone to make a difference.

If you think about your life, you can probably find countless examples where you've taken this step in order to make a meaningful change. Perhaps you sacrificed some of your drinking friends in order to settle down with a partner and start a family. Deep down, you know the two lifestyles don't mix and if you want a successful family, you can't make that happen if you spend every evening necking Glenfiddich at the bar with your mates.

So what's the greater good in this instance? The aim of the 'Leave' campaign should be to exit the EU and as a consequence, regain our position at the top tables where decisions are truly made. In the process, we regain the democratic accountability that's been eroded. That's the greater good.

How can we get there? On the face of it, this is simple, right? We march down to the polling station and cast our vote when the referendum comes. If we've won enough arguments and encouraged enough people, we win the referendum. Then David Cameron is forced to flick a magic switch in 10 Downing Street, the drawbridge across the channel comes up and then the Easter bunny skips up and down the country handing each and every citizen a large pile of notes no longer being sent to the EU (which they would subsequently have rebranded as EU money and largely handed back to the UK anyway).

In my facetious little diatribe above, there are a couple of serious points.

Point 1 - We need to win the arguments

You don't win an argument, without actually having an argument. That means you may have to step outside your comfort zone - but it's worth it. There are plenty of people who will attempt to bully you out of the park over the matter of the EU. The better educated you are on the matter and the more armed with appropriate facts, the better.

Better still, you need to be smart about this and pick the right arguments. There are plenty of topical weapons that can be wielded in this fight that will do significant damage to the 'Remain' cause, yet picking the wrong arguments will do significant damage to the reputation for 'Leave'.

Look at the people who matter in the Remain campaign (know your enemy) not the people that don't. Don't waste your energy attacking the guy who believes that a reduction in mobile roaming charges is worth conceding democracy for - look at Cameron, Osborne, Mandelson, Clarke etc. See where they're going and then head them off at the pass (and as a hint - I'd say associate membership is worth getting to grips with here).

Likewise, if the 'Leave' campaigns are missing the point, get stuck in and give them a *gentle kicking to help them understand when they're wasting time. They frequently need it.

*heavy

Point 2 - We need to encourage enough people


It's easy to turn up to the debate with confused thoughts, conflating all manner of issues and then venting them at the first opportunity on the internet. I'm sure I've done it enough times - but now really isn't the time to walk in to the ballroom with your flies undone.

You think the right thing to discuss is immigration or bang on about Islam? Well done, you've just polarised the debate in the manner that the 'Remain' campaign will relish and repulsed a large section of the potential voting base. Think about it - it matters!

You've decided to point out the democratic deficit or argue that we need to become world players by taking back our seats at a global level? You're moving the debate in to uncomfortable, indefensible territory for the 'Remain' camp and you're much more likely to usefully educate people and have them rally to your cause.

And this is where it's going to become really difficult for some people.

You have to realise that the EU referendum is a constitutional matter - and although political bodies facilitate our democracy, ultimately it's a matter for the people. Your say and my say - that's what counts. So what this referendum shouldn't be about is furthering the ambitions of any political party. This isn't a gift for UKIP to drive up membership. Let's be 100% clear about this - if you think that somehow, within the space of one and a half years, enough people will wake up and rally behind that political flag to make Brexit a reality as a party political movement, you're entirely mistaken.

Don't get me wrong here, I laughed like many others when I saw an apoplectic Farage describe Van Rompuy as a low-grade bank clerk - but Suzanne Evans let the truth slip when she said that he was 'a very divisive character'. People have made their minds up and you're going to be on the back foot if you think that you can change their views in time for the referendum. You may as well give the 'Remain' campaign a three year head start. I'm not saying to ditch the party if you happen to be aligned to it - but UKIP members will already vote for Brexit, and taking the UKIP branding to the wider battlefield is only going to muddy the waters.

As Darth Vader once said 'Search your feelings, you know it to be true'.

We may need more than the force to win this referendum. Try facts.


Point 3 - We need to be realistic about what we can achieve and when

There are a lot of infographics flying around the internet from both sides making all kinds of laughable claims. The one I particularly hate is the suggestion that 'we'll all be £1000 better off out of the EU'. Much of that money will still need to go to academia and farming etc - just via a less indirect route.

You've also got to realise that Brexit is not a switch. You don't vote 'Leave' one day and walk out in to the street the next day to find it covered in union jack bunting, crowned by a rainbow. Think of divorce proceedings and how messy they can get. The UK is like the person that wakes up realising that they've been in a bad relationship and that they can get on with their life by moving on. The EU wants the UK to stay at home cooking dinner whilst it swans off to all the big parties giving it all the big 'I am' talk. When the UK leaves, it needs a planned / phased exit. Much of the real debate that is going on right now with the referendum is focussed around this and it is critical, if you're going to be effective, that you understand the mechanics.

Has any work been done on a planned / phased / measured exit? The good news is 'Yes' - it's called Flexcit and it's very comprehensive. You can access the work by Dr Richard A E North in pdf form here: http://www.eureferendum.com/documents/flexcit.pdf

I'd also recommend taking a good look at http://eureferendum.com/ in general along with associated blogs and sites. It may seem 'frank' in some places but you will struggle to find a more comprehensive and strategically accurate resource for Brexit on the internet.

The 'Remain' campaign likely love nothing more than 'Leave' spouting all manner of unqualified promises - because they can then position us as fantasists. Don't give them that gift this Christmas. Instead, force feed them the 'Brussels sprouts' that they can't stomach until they're sick of it. If you ever put sprouts on the plate of someone who doesn't like them, no matter how smart they seem, they soon become irrational and defensive.

Circle Jerk

If you're brave enough to step outside of mob mentality and take these three steps, at the very least you're going to make a small but meaningful difference; you may just reach out to people who would not have listened in the past.

Alternatively, you can join in the with the circle jerk. You'll be 'passionate' (I hate that term) about your cause and you'll spend time and energy making noise, but you'll only be hiding in the pack with the other sheep.

Step out of the flock. Become a wolf.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

It doesn't matter if it's right - as long as it's first

We've found out a thing or two since my last post.

Firstly, the CBI have been exposed, yet again, to be the Pro EU sock puppets that they really are. The Telegraph discuss Lord Maude being petitioned by the CBI in a concerted effort to campaign for Britain to remain in the EU. This quote from the Telegraph is quite relevant:

"The minutes – marked ‘confidential’– show that the CBI was ‘stepping up’ its plans to campaign for the UK to stay in the EU and that its former President Sir Mike Rake urged his successor Paul Drechsler to ‘use [the] CBI's influence to keep us in’. "

The full article can be read HERE

But the CBI are also under scrutiny for defining misleading polls that potentially skew the perception of the love of the EU by British business. Claims that 8 out of 10 cats businesses want us to stay in the EU appear to look rather anaemic when you find out that the CBI have hand picked the companies polled (by YouGov) - with only 20% of them having 50 or less employees, when 99% of businesses in Britain are staffed to that level. This is brought up by the Vote Leave campaign - see HERE

Details of the spat also reported in The Mail HERE

Yet when the likes of The BBC want to roll out 'the face of business' to discuss the EU situation, time and time again they pick the CBI as if it's a politically neutral body. Well, it's obvious to anyone with an ear to the ground that they're anything but. I'm angry with the CBI - but I'm also angry at the BBC for being so predictable on the matter.

On another note - a lot was made of comments from US Trade Representative Michael Froman at the end of October (see previous post). The 'Remain' campaign were quick to capitalise, as if it undermined claims that Britain could ever hope to have a free trade agreement with the US.

Lo and behold, it surfaces that both he and his wife worked for the EU. From Guido:

"Froman worked as part of the European Commission’s Forward Studies Unit, a department tasked with monitoring and evaluating European integration. ..... Not only did Froman work for Brussels, his wife Nancy Goodman did as well. She took on a post at the Directorate General For Competition, which is also part of the European Commission"

You couldn't make it up.

The full Guido post can be found HERE

The campaign to Leave the EU is going to be full of this activity. I suspect that the true relationship of said people and organisations to the EU were always expected to be exposed at some point - yet getting in there first and setting the agenda appears to be more important to the Pro EU lobby than being right. After all, the BBC will never follow through on the Froman quote and throw it in to a new, more appropriate context. Most people will have read THIS and then accepted it at face value.

This is why, in my humble opinion, Leave campaigns need to push back against this kind of activity with their own searching questions, setting the tempo and the agenda. As the FUD flies in, they need to parry and riposte - moving attention back in the other direction. As of now, I've yet to see this level of capability from either Vote Leave or Leave.eu. Take the reaction to the Prime Minister's attack on the Norway option - they made a right hash of the matter, giving both Cameron and Osborne exactly the response they needed.

See the following article on eureferendum.com to fully understand the danger their response has put the Leave campaign in: http://www.eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=85804#disqus_thread





Saturday, 31 October 2015

Brexit - Ping of Death - Tariff Threats

The Leave campaign are subject to a ping of death attack at the moment. Not in the literal internet security sense of the phrase but in the arena of battle where they fight to wrestle sovereignty of the UK away from the clammy hands of the career political class in Brussels. It's irritating but something that we're going to have to get used to and learn to provide an effective response to. This will require knowledge, teamwork and endurance. Whoever gets the prize of being designated the 'official' leave campaign will have to work quickly to consolidate and accommodate all others with a vested interest in order to maximise the depth of knowledge and to build an effective fighting force, because this ping of death is only going to get louder as time progresses.

It's not the BSE (Britain Stronger in Europe) team that we're up against here, and I'd suggest that right now, expending any energy on BSE is a wasted effort. The people in the other corner are much more significant players: Cameron; Osborne; Mandelson; Clarke - etc etc and they have access to all kinds of resources in order to deliver just the right levels of FUD to discourage Leavers from regaining their democracy.  Naturally, nobody wants to be seen to be the source of a ping of death, and the beauty of such an attack is that it's distributed. Each source need only expend a little bit of effort to fire off the occasional ping (Brexit doubt) yet the wide scope of the attack soon bogs down the target, leaving them fighting to deliver any service whatsoever.

It's fair to say that we've had a few such 'pings' from the USA during this year. The President himself has clearly stated on more than one occassion that he believes the UK will have more influence by staying in the EU. This is counter intuitive when you begin to understand how our relationship with the EU works. Inside the EU, we get 1/28th representation on the world stage where the EU acts as some kind of regional proxy for us - yet the belief of many Brexiteers is that by taking our own seat at the top table, we'd have a better chance of full representation and an increase in influence. We're not a small force internationally in any capacity so why should we be allowed to be treated as such? Surely the truth behind Obama's comments is that our position in the EU is a matter of convenience to the USA.

So then we come to Michael Froman (US Trade Representative) and his own extremely well timed contribution to the Ping of Death. This commentary half inched from the Guardian:

Froman  “I think it’s absolutely clear that Britain has a greater voice at the trade table being part of the EU, being part of a larger economic entity,” Froman told Reuters, "adding that EU membership gives Britain more leverage in negotiations. We’re not particularly in the market for FTAs with individual countries. We’re building platforms … that other countries can join over time.”

Let's break that down and examine that a little shall we:

Froman: “I think it’s absolutely clear that Britain has a greater voice at the trade table being part of the EU"

Reality: Probably not if we're honest about this. How does proxying our national interests through an institution which is also juggling the interests of 27 other nations, many of which bear little resemblance to our own, somehow amplify our influence. This sentence is a substance free sound bite.

Froman: "...being part of a larger economic entity"

Reality:  Having a large number of countries neatly tucked under its belt does count for something, and this would have meaning if a) we were small enough to be insignificant - instead we're about the 5th largest economy in the world and b) the EU was really amplifying our national interests. But it's not - the EU acts in its own interests because the idea of the EU as a country is far more important to the political class in the EU than the idea of member nations having individual needs. I'm also repulsed by this continued notion that financial incentives are enough to lure people away from their democratic rights. One of my Grandfathers manned Liberators in WW2 and the other was both an SOE and later a member of Z Special Unit - I often wonder what they would think of a generation prepared to throw away hard won democracy for the sake of the removal of mobile roamming charges.

Froman: "adding that EU membership gives Britain more leverage in negotiations."

Reality: I think he's echoing the President's line here. No need to repeat my thoughts.

Froman "We’re not particularly in the market for FTAs with individual countries. We’re building platforms … that other countries can join over time.”

Reality: And there it is ... we've gotten past the pastry and are at the meat of his sausage roll now because Froman has a vested interest in the strategic implementation of both the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP to you and me) and also the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

TTIP is a contentious and widely reviled, proposed free trade agreement between the USA and the EU. It's seen as elevating corporate interests over those of national interests, particularly Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS) which allow corporations to sue governments should their policies be seen to impact profits. The upshot of this is that corporations will have significant power with which to lobby governments and shape policy, moving the balance of democracy further away from the people who, by this time, are simply relegated to consumer status. Yet another beautiful moment in the Mandelson cited 'Post Democratic Era'.

Let's not kid ourselves here, this isn't a new thing but it doesn't really make it any less ugly. I find myself yearning for a single nation agreement here because if this goes the way of the pear, I want to be able to vote out those on this side of the Atlantic who are / were responsible and have them punished (and not in the Tom Sharpe / Nanny Whip kind of way).

Brexit would be massively inconvenient to Froman, fracturing the scope of his deliverable right at the point of closure. It's like buying a bag of marbles and then getting home to find out that the really interesting big one that you had your eye on slipped out of the bag on the way home.  There's no doubt in my mind that the US would have to come to the table and negotiate a free trade arrangement because the era of petty tariff wars is long gone and it's in everyone's interest. Here I have to state again, we're not a minor economic power, so let's not talk down our worth. However, for all those with a vested interested in keeping the dream of the undemocratic EU alive - the threat of tariffs is another convenient ping from Project Fear.

The antidote for the Leave campaign will be a firewall (dedicated crack team of volunteers well versed in the minutiae of the EU argument) - ready to intercept this kind of nonsense at the earliest opportunity - subsequently providing a swift and confident response for whoever ends up being the poster child of Leave. As the attack vector changes - the firewall rules will need to be continually refreshed to adapt to the emerging threats. This function has the potential to keep a lot of people very busy for the next two years.

And all that doesn't mean. of course, that we don't go on the attack ourselves; there's no fun to be had in this game if we always allow ourselves to be on the back foot. After all, the best form of defence is attack. All metaphorically speaking naturally.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Norway - nul points

If you weren't watching yesterday - there were interesting developments on the referendum campaign.

The main thrust was that the agenda was set first thing in the morning by the BBC declaring (as a leading  headline) that our PM was to denounce the 'Norway Option'. It seemed to me to be a very well coordinated straw man attack - because, as became apparent, there were not many people on the Leave side advocating Norway. All in all, people scurried away from debate on the matter rather than rolling up their sleeves and getting stuck in and challenging the facts. It's difficult not have grievances on the whole affair.

Firstly, if you're going to stand up and declare that you're ready to fight for Brexit, you need to know what it is that you're fighting for. This means arming yourself with the facts you need to effectively communicate your vision for a better future. That didn't happen yesterday - and the 'Remain' campaign got in several free blows without being properly challenged. Chief amongst those were some barefaced lies it would seem about the cost of Norway doing business with the EU and its exposure to EU laws (the 'Fax Law' concept).

To set the record straight on these matters, eureferendum.com provides some hard facts on both matters:

It would seem that the UK pay more than twice as much as Norway per head to the EU: http://eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=85795

We would have much better capacity for shaping rules outside the EU:
http://www.eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=83408

Had the Leave campaign 'representatives' been armed with any of this information, they would have advanced the conversation considerably.

Secondly, it's highly curious that Cameron is allowed to set the agenda like this when he's not even prepared to declare what it is that he's actually fighting for himself. Even today, we're hearing reports from other EU member heads of state that he's still yet to put any meat on the bone. Of course, the truth is that he's not even bothering. It seems even the media have decided that there's nothing to be gained by spending any more time on this issue and are much more interested in declaring it a straight fight between Leave and Remain and then setting up a series of Punch and Judy matches.

Take Evan Davies on Newsnight interviewing Owen Patterson. It wasn't Patterson's finest hour but it has to be said that Davies was wasn't interested in any intellectual conversation. Nuanced answers were cut short and at one point, rather unprofessionally, Davies cut across Patterson's answer declaring that he didn't want to hear about it.

Surely, when you're discussing a topic of great complexity, you'd expect an answer of some complexity? But apparently that won't do for BBC Newsnight. Perhaps Davies should have streamlined the process by giving Owen Patterson a multiple choice questionnaire to fill in rather than inviting him in to the studio. But the irony here is this -

David Cameron has been allowed to set the agenda, even feeding the media a series of questions to direct at the Leave camp - yet at the same time he's not expected to answer what it is that he's asking the EU for by way of reform. And the media just let this happen. They also allow him to carry on with his pretence that if he doesn't get what he wants, he'll campaign for Brexit. How can a man, who has so openly attacked the Leave campaign ever seriously been expected to renegotiate a better deal with the EU? He's shown his hand and the EU will be confident of his loyalty.

This whole episode reminds me of a quote from Sun Tzu's Art of War "Fight the enemy where they aren't"

That's what Cameron has done. In spite of the abject weakness of the 'Remain' camp's current position, he's moved the discussion in to areas that the public facing Leave camp were simply not ready to fight. For all the money behind Leave.eu and Vote_Leave, it would seem that they've faltered at the first strategic hurdle and it makes you wonder just what their funding is paying for. You don't win a fight like this by flashing half baked meme infographics around Twitter - you plan it like a military operation and get the opposition marching to the beat of your drum.




Wednesday, 28 October 2015

How the EU is used to undermine democracy

If ever there was a beef to be had about the EU, it would be on the subject of democracy and how it fails to respect or support national democracy instead, looking to supplant it with an EU plutocracy. I say plutocracy because I see the EU as the creation of a two-tier state, with a wealthy political and corporate class creating a governance mechanism for the rest of us to be burdened with.

Many of us have been screaming for years that the EU is a huge danger to our fundamental freedoms, yet due to the softly softly approach of the EU project, they've managed to get where they want without facing significant resistance. But it's becoming clearer now that there is a definite cabal driving an agenda that undermines national freedoms and democracies in favour of a new status quo; something more frightening and less democratic than the federalist paradigm we've been fighting against for years.

Wait - so this isn't just about transition of powers from one democratic institution to another, more centralised body? In my opinion, no.

Firstly, the lack of 'hire and fire' accountability of EU legislators, who will be neck deep in the tidal wave of lobbyists sloshing round Brussels, means that for every power migrated away from the UK (or any other member nation for that matter), there is a dilution in the effectiveness of your voting power. When they push laws that you don't like, you simply cannot get rid of these people. A national election becomes a token exercise of faux democratic appeasement rather than creation of a genuine mandate by the people. What's worse is that national governments can use the EU as a mechanism to drive through unpopular laws at that level in order to deliberately circumvent national political institutions.

Find that hard to believe? Well here's Karen Bradley from the Home Office quoted (5th Oct 2015) in The Independent discussing the practice:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/the-eu-is-used-to-bypass-national-democracy-home-office-minister-admits-a6680341.html


Secondly? Well then there's the unsettling matter of Portugal. The nation recently voted against the pro austerity conservative government and for the socialist opposition who formed a coalition with radical left anti austerity parties. Yet, the Portuguese President has vowed to block them from taking power. Why?

He says: "Never in 40 years of democracy, have the governments in Portugal relied on the support of anti-European political forces."

In other words, if you're not prepared to support the EU, you don't get to govern. This should send shivers up and down the spine of anyone who thinks that their vote actually counts toward shaping the destiny of their nation. The EU is already in a situation where it needs to have more direct political control of member states in order to maintain the precarious currency union that it has and it will certainly need more control as the project advances.

Alarming as it is, there is one further thought that unsettles me more about the matter of Portugal. It's a dramatic event which, with proper scrutiny would do much to expose the true nature of the EU to anyone concerned about its future direction and intentions. Yet, it appears to be getting zero air time from the likes of the BBC. For some reason they either don't see it as news worthy, or they're being highly selective about what they want to report.

Now we understand what was meant by Peter Mandelson when he said we were living in a "post democratic era". The referendum is possibly the only chance this generation will have to reverse the intentional damage that is being done to democracy.











Sunday, 25 October 2015

BBC charity in EU £9 million funding 'shocker'

It's fair to say that the BBC are going to be under huge amounts of scrutiny for the forthcoming EU referendum. They've already been derided for perceived lack of impartiality, having already been found to have received huge amounts of money from the EU (millions) and also for their frequent interchanging of the term 'EU' with the word 'Europe' at seemingly every opportunity.

The latter issue is a huge irritation not just because it's a blatant mistake but because that simple switching has a huge impact on perception over the referendum. People generally like Europe as a beautiful and diverse continent but couldn't give a flying fig about the self appointed technocrats masterminding their federalist dreams from Brussels and Strasbourg. Yet this isn't the BBC's issue alone and new reporting in general has been slack all round.

But when it comes to the money, the BBC appear to be on less stable ground. Only back in February 2014, Miles Goslett from The Spectator ran a story detailing how a Freedom Of Information (FOI) request to the BBC uncovered millions had been received in EU funding.

See here: http://blogs.new.spectator.co.uk/2014/02/the-millions-in-eu-funding-the-bbc-tried-to-hide/

So here we are a year and a half later and The Telegraph are running a story about BBC Media Action (BBC claim this is an independent charity) apparently received over £9 million in order to "deliver the EU’s “European Neighbourhood Policy”.

You can read the full story here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/eureferendum/11953172/EU-referendum-bias-row-after-EU-pays-BBC-charity-9m.html

Regardless as to how the BBC try to extricate themselves from this perception of money fuelled sock-puppetry, their reputation for impartiality will have taken yet another hammer blow after this.






The very surprising (and dangerous) love-in between Peter Mandelson and George Osborne


After 'Yachtgate' you wouldn't have expected these two to have much to say to each other. Yet it would appear that they share common DNA over the matter of the EU. Peter Oborne makes some interesting observations (full article can be found HERE), best summed up in this short paragraph:

"Europe is another common area of interest, for both men are ardent supporters of the EU. Mandelson is the mastermind of the campaign to keep Britain in Europe, while Osborne is the Government’s official negotiator, charged with obtaining better membership terms."

Somehow, the concept is not surprising - but it goes to demonstrate that the EU project goes well beyond party politics.

For further insight on the matter - see THIS from eureferendum.com