Sunday, 31 January 2016

Staying silent is the way of the coward

You have to be a bit self-righteous to be a blogger, otherwise you wouldn't be a blogger. It means having some confidence in your ideas and some faith in your arguments. Naturally some people will resent that and you will become the target of some fairly nasty personal invective. In this I have had my fair share and when it comes to brass tacks, I give roughly as good as I get. I have no real right to complain.

Or maybe I do. You see, I don't enjoy antagonising people with whom, in spirit, I agree. It has cost me a lot. It has caused serious rows with friends, it has cost a lot of money to do, and I am quite sure if I had instead toed the line and toadied up to the right people I would be speaking to a far wider audience and maybe making a living out of this.

But that actually comes with a price too. I have seen what you have to write and who you have to make nice with - and it doesn't reach any new ears. That's not going to happen. You see, I want to win this and nobody is served by me remaining silent over what needs to be said. Some have demanded conformity and unity with two absolutely terrible campaigns, regardless of how bad they are - and some have demanded my total silence. I am not minded to accommodate such people under any circumstances. 

If you have a problem with what I am saying, I am only reporting things as I see them and you need to take it up with the respective campaigns. I stop growling when they stop being useless. It's not like we have not made every possible effort to ensure they are equipped with the right information.

And please don't give me the waffle about the way I approach people. After all, I have been in this game a while, I have seen the behaviour of the influencers in this debate and have seen repeated attempts to educate them fail. Not least David Campbell Bannerman who is resolutely immune from taking on board new information and the Carswells and Hannans of this world always agree with the last people they spoke to. 

In fact, it is mainly the shock value of being so publicly obnoxious that half of these people even engaged at all. They now know who I am, what my problem is with them and yet they continue to preach bad ideas, knowing them to be false mainly out of pettiness and laziness, under the assumption that none of their neophytes will notice they're being spoonfed bullshit. 

But this is what makes them contemptible in that we are so close to the referendum and the Remain campaing have picked up on most of the flaws in the campaing yet their egos prevent them from moderating their output to the point of actively undermining what we Brexit Bloggers have been saying. 

Unlike bloggers, these people are unused to being challenged and are uncomfortable with being seen to be wrong. They are in transmit mode only and have no interest in entering a dialogue or learning anything. Just look ta Ruth Lea, who professes to be an economist, who speaks unmitigated crap about the single market. She has nearly 1500 followers but follows a mere 12. She is not in the least bit interested in the views of others, hence why I am blocked, even after approaching her gently in the first instance.

I have an uphill battle because many of their supporters have been told by others in the bubble that these people are intelligent, informed people. Lea certainly isn't, John Redwood is embarrassing and the less said about Jacob Rees Mogg the better. So really, nasty is the only tool in the box. As much as these people have blocked me, there is nothing stopping me exposing them and undermining them without their knowledge. In this I rather resent the notion that I am at fault. 

This is oddly, why I do have a soft spot for Arron Banks. As much as Leave.EU sucks donkeyballs, Banks is at least capable of dialogue even if he does have the attention span of a gerbil on methamphetamines. Too bad what we say is wasted breath.

But then I get the crap that there are other opinions to be considered too. But there aren't many opinions to consider in the field of regulation and much of what eurosceptics believe is merely the result of an amplified echo chamber, largely made worse by the clueless utterances of Daniel Hannan. And let's not forget, the cacophony of protest at the suggestion Flexcit would form the basis of a Leave.EU plan came from a small band of misanthropes who haven't actually read it and wouldn't understand it if they did. 

So yes, given the price I have paid, given the bullshit I have put up with and given the energy my whole family has devoted to this, I have every right to be prickly and impatient and for johnny come latelys to tell me my own business is arrogance in the extreme. You can't judge the debate by the chapter you walked in on - and if I seem arrogant it's because I do know what I am talking about and these arseholes, in the mian, do not. I'm not the one with the attitude problem. I have approached this with passion, knowledge and aptitude and LeaveHQ.com is a testament to that. I am quietly very proud of it and it deserves more exposure. 

Thinking back to last year when a number of friends deserted me and EUreferendum.com to side with Ukip after some biutter rows, I see they are now fully adorned with Leave.EU "twibbons" and are out handing out balloons and leaflets, wasting their time, having passed up the opportunity to make a real difference on the web with us. In this they chose to stay silent and conform in order to show unity. That to me is moral and intellectual cowardice.

Sitting idly by and letting a bunch of self-important gobshites ruin the last twenty years of work for all of us is not uniting or showing loyalty. It's a dereliction of duty. Those who say it is me provoking disunity have no idea just how offensive they are. Especially when these people do not put even a tenth of the effort in I do. And if I have a right to complain then you can only imagine how Richard North feels after all the sacrifices he has made only to be shafted time and again by self-serving, two-faced gutless bastards.

So really, if I am curt, impatient, or at times indescribably rude, perhaps you should check your own crassness and insensitivity and at least do us the courtesy of reading our blogs first before opening your fat mouths. When all is said and done, win or lose, I won't be sat pondering if there was anything else I could have done. I very much doubt kipper grunters will be able to say the same, and if we lose, don't point the finger at us because we'll bite hard. I'll show you a new definition of unpleasant.

The bottom line is I will keep hammering away at everybody who is letting the side down. You are getting all the cues you need from Stronger In who have identified all the same holes we have. We said we had to be our own worst critics and we have been exactly that. Now it's your turn to act on it, break your silence and start protesting at the stupid bastards who are ruining our last chance of leaving the EU. Hold them to account. But don't you ever dare demand that I show unity or remain silent. I am incapable of displaying the cowardice our so-called friends have. 

It's time for Conservatives to wake up


I've been taking some flack on Twitter for remarking that one should never trust a Tory. I'm not sure why. The Conservative Party, officially, is fighting to keep us in the EU. The ones who aren't have been conspiring for nearly a decade to own the campaign for themselves, to the exclusion of all others, largely as a career platform for the likes of Bannerman, Lea, Hannan and Redwood, all of whom have only a thin grasp of the technical issues, no grasp of strategy and continue to undermine and embarrass the cause.

It should also be noted that Hannan has on numerous occasions attempted to sabotage eureferendum.com. A wretched hive of scum and villainy, to coin a phrase. Through either incompetence, inaction or snobbery the Tory party has done more to harm our chances of leaving the EU than any other force in politics. Not least with the u-turn of Mark Prtichard today.

Winning this will depend on attacking the PM's credibility on EU reforms - and that's why we cannot trust tribalist Tories. The party will always come first. Those who hesitate to attack the Tories should be reminded that if their concern is what happens at the next election then firstly, even with a badly dented Conservative Party, Corbyn is not going to win an election - and secondly, if we are committed to EU membership after the referendum then it's not going to matter very much who is Prime Minister for a very long time. We will have surrendered the ability to self govern and Westminster politics will matter even less than it does now.

Even now, the credibility of the Leave campaign is bleeding away while Vote Leave is fighting like cats in a sack, an in the main that comes down to the egos of just a handful of parasitic Tories who've had their hands in the till from the beginning.

More to the point, if your values are remotely conservative, look around you. We have not seen a reduction in the size of the state. Sure, the registered number of state employees has gone down but that's because so many functions have been farmed out instead of closed down or truly privatised. Let me remind you that outsourcing is not privatisation - and given the ineptitude of government procurement it's not going to save you any money either.

Moreover, the so called party of defence has wasted vast sums of money on big ticket toys, most of which barely work and vastly reduce our capability. This is the party that left us without a maritime patrol aircraft and made a pigs ear of procurement.

We have seen back-tracks on free schools and education reforms, u-turns all over the shop, and whatever you might think of welfare, you don't have to be a foaming leftist to see that it is failing those most in need. Moreover, what is it in your estimation thinks Britain is showing its mettle going grovelling to 27 other states for permission to make a marginal tweak to welfare and immigration policy?

No, the Conservative party is just a continuation of politics-free managerialism, beset by the usual nannying authoritarianism, big spend, high waste massive government and has baulked at any principled reform in the spirit of Mrs Thatcher. At best we can say that Cameron's conservatives are marginally less dreadful than Miliband's Labour party would have been.

The point is, if you want to see Britain as a world leader in its own right, confident in itself with a vibrant democracy, then leaving the EU is your number one priority and your loyalty to Blue Tribe must be left far behind.

Brexit is not the end in itself, it is the beginning of our rediscovery of what it means to be a nation that acts in its own interests on behalf of its peoples before any supranational ideal from the last century. It's about reforming politics so we have real politicians and not these plastics with no authenticity, passion or drive. It's about throwing out the Burnhams, the Camerons and the Corbyns and all these dreary relics. Brexit is the beginning of a revolution in politics so that our votes really do matter.

Brexit is not about saving a few quid here and there or chucking a few regulations in the bin. It's about making that change that we have all been crying out for - to make politics matter again. That is your sales pitch, not the miserly whinging of the Tory eurosceptics. We want those losers gone as well. We need a gust of fresh air blowing over our musty and tainted old "democracy".

In this, there is no party loyalty, not to Ukip, not to the Tories or any of the old order. Do not be afraid of offending party sensibilities. If you are campaigning for Brexit then you are in the business of getting the public to wake up from their slumber, rejecting the established politics and clearing the way for politics befitting this hyper-globalised technology lead world - where so much government is becoming redundant and surpassed.

Put simply, if you want to leave the EU, you have already made up your mind that change has to happen and in this there is no room for sentimentality for the brands that used to represent what we believe. Cameron's empty shell of a party is in no better shape than Labour and if your loyalty to to a brand matters more then you are part of the problem. And that goes double for Ukippers.

If you are a conservative, Cameron is not on your side. He takes you for stupid with phantom vetoes and bogus reforms. This is a man who is lying to us all and treating us with contempt. In the final analysis it's up to you to decide what it is you really want. If you do want to leave the EU, don't come bitching to me for pointing out that the Tory Vote Leave operation is catastrophic. Break ranks and take it up with them.

We have a very short time for this campaign to shape up, we need to have the arguments now and I will not acquiesce to lemming like loyalty only to be lead over the cliff. It's time to put up or shut up. If you decide the latter, stay the hell out of my way.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

A world of possibilities awaits us


I suppose very few have been keeping up with all the themes I've been exploring on the blog just recently - and though it is becoming a tad technical at this point, it really does show what a shrivelling irrelevance the EU is in building a global single market - and when you really start digging into the real drivers of economic and regulatory convergence, nobody is talking about the EU. It is yesterdays news.

Today's earlier article uncovered some issues worthy of greater study not least the new eTIR system from UNECE, and the drive for trade facilitation and harmonisarion of systems at ports. Much of this will be driven by the IMO Facilitation Committee (FAL) working to remove unnecessary formalities and “red tape” in international shipping.

The Committee ensures that the right balance is struck between maritime security and the facilitation of international maritime trade. This committee also implements all aspects of the Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic 1965. New Zealand can make a submission on any item in the next Session’s agenda. We can't. We're in the EU. That's why we must leave.

I am told by many that I am over-intellectualising Brexit arguments, making it impossible for "normal people" to follow. However, these people are wrong. This is absolutely central to a major revolution in global trade and the primary reason to leave the EU and join something bigger and more exciting.

Moreover, the most technical posts on the blog just recently have been the ones most happily received on Twitter, yielding some of the best hits to date - which tells me there is a real appetite for news and analysis with depth that the media simply doesn't offer. This challenges quite a few assumptions made by the mainstream press.

What I will say is that if you haven't been following the work, then it really is your loss because you're missing out on a whole other world of news that reaches well into the future, unlike Westminster which is scratching around in the 1980's for ideas and articles for debate. Really, if you think this stuff is boring, YOU are boring.

What this all shows, in a very hippy sense, is that the world is literally coming together, pulling in the same direction to achieve great things, ripping down barriers, sharing ideas and developing the technology and systems of tomorrow. We are opening up the world to new goods and services, opening up new destinations and possibilities.

In this, it's standards and regulatory systems that make it all possible through a massive system of multilateral cooperation barely even acknowledged by our lame duck politicians. Just being aware of it and following it makes you part of it. It's so much bigger and more extensive than I ever imagined. In any case, whether you find it boring or not, I will keep grinding this axe, not least because it's fascinating. It all started with a metal box - the humble container - and now look where we are going.

As ever, thank you to all the readers who have kept up with it and thanks for all the likes and shares. Every time you share the blog my audience grows, and maybe if I can push these concepts into the mainstream debate, maybe we can have some politics of substance and consequence. There is nothing that says we have to swallow the crap we are fed by our media.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Morons



Three tweets beautifully exemplify this whole mess. The media has noticed the Leave side is an incompetent shower with no coherent message and no real idea of what out looks like.

Daniel Hannan says some helpful things, but then the next day says precisely the opposite, blowing whichever way the wind takes him. He's all over the shop. But in admitting that freedom of movement is part of the Brexit deal if we want to secure a victory, he advances the debate a little.

But then Beavis and Butthead of Leave.EU step in, reverting to Continuity Ukip tactics, blowing the whole deal. Any semblance of strategy and nuance is swept aside to let out a generic eurosceptic fart.

At this point, I have no opinion whatsoever on who wins the designation for the lead campaign since a bunch of grunting kipperists run by Beavis and Butthead is no more likely to produce a win than a bunch of treacherous Tories who can't even say for certain if they want to leave.

Ultimately, leavers have been unwilling to let go of eurosceptic baggage, can't focus on the task at hand and can't get their heads around the fact we're fighting a referendum and not an election. The brand is so badly soiled now that there is no rowing back. Only a brand new campaign organisation can save the cause now. Leave.EU is an embarrassment and will do nothing to advance the debate.

The EU is not a trade bloc - it's a power cult

fig1. The profit motive for safety at sea

Georgia and Turkey have taken a significant step this week in strengthening the digital link between them by agreeing to electronically exchange customs data so that transport across the Georgian-Turkish borders will be faster and cheaper. The two countries signed a Protocol on electronic data exchange in the framework of a joint eTIR Pilot Project.

The TIR procedure is governed by a multilateral treaty, the TIR Convention (Transports Internationaux Routiers), and simplifies border crossing by establishing a customs transit system allowing sealed trucks and containers to cross multiple borders with a single customs document and a unique guarantee, thus increasing speed and decreasing costs of international transports while protecting governments against the loss of duties and taxes.

The eTIR pilot project will improve the benefits brought by the TIR Procedure by ensuring the advanced electronic exchange of data related to TIR transports crossing the Georgian-Turkish borders. One of the key aims is to improve risk assessment procedures, that is to say allowing governments to evaluate the risk of a TIR transport passing through their countries well in advance of it reaching their border and, thus, help to prevent smuggling, terrorism, illegal trade and immigration.

The eTIR pilot project between Georgia and Turkey started as part of the UNECE led project "Strengthening the capacities of developing countries and countries with economies in transition to facilitate legitimate border crossing, regional cooperation and integration" and represents a significant step towards the full computerization of the TIR procedure.

In other news, Pakistan will begin enforcement of the TIR Convention from this week. “Joining the TIR would facilitate trade with Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) countries and China through land routes,” said an officer in the Ministry of Commerce. He said that the customs’ control measures taken in the country of departure would be accepted by all countries of transit and destination. “At present, Pakistan has to pay 101% guarantee to Afghanistan to reach the Central Asian countries.”.

The implementation of the TIR system is also expected to further enhance and ensure viability of capital intensive projects at the ports of Karachi and Gwadar. Before this convention, Pakistan had difficulties in conducting trade through land routes with the Central Asian States, Turkey and Europe as there was no mechanism that could provide protection from customs duties and taxes in transit countries.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe introduced the TIR convention in 1975 which became effective in 1978 and it has been a key component of the European single market. Now we see the rest of the world catching up. We would note that through a common multilateral framework, it is entirely possible to have harmonisation of trade and commonality of systems without nations surrendering their right of veto or ceding essential sovereignty.

So too would we note that this is part of a global drive to harmonise trade, increasing in urgency as all players are acutely aware of the need to maximise efficiency and therefore profitability on the brink of a global slowdown. In this we see a global push to remove technical barriers to trade with UNECE and other major international organisations driving it.

But as some would remark, the European Single Market is so much more than mere administration and harmonisation. That's true. It's also about health and safety and welfare of the worker - in which again we see joint collaborative efforts from all quarters. One area of concern is the uneven weighting of containers which has serious ramifications for both profitability and safety of trade.

In this we see a drive for harmonised procedures in weighing containers before loading. Injury and loss of life is an expensive thing, and stacking accidents can set off chain reactions resulting in the loss of massive container ships with all their cargo. Such is more common than I ever understood and is bizarrely ignored by our media.

To get an idea of the issues surrounding container weighing, it's worth watching the two videos on this link. It prompts all manner of technical questions in achieving global harmonisation. When a container without a signed weight declaration shows up at a marine terminal as of July 1, when a new SOLAS rule takes effect, what happens next?

Will the terminal allow the container in, hoping that the weight will arrive in time for the container to be handled and loaded without having to be pulled aside? Or does the terminal avoid the risk, telling the carrier and its customer that containers without the Verified Gross Mass won’t be allowed in under any circumstances?

This is where we see shippers themselves working in collaboration with the International Maritime Organisation and UNECE and the International Standards Organisation to establish global conventions, in which there is a major financial and competitive advantage in seeking commonality and a rapid resolution.

The framework for such is the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, involving technical agencies, the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation, the ILO and the likes. In this, modern European ports will likely have few problems in meeting agreed standards by way of being modern, integrated and at the forefront of standards development.

Now the reason this article is not as detailed and granular as you might expect is to avoid getting bogged down in the masses of fascinating detail, and getting distracted by any number of branch issues. The point is, we are seeing the emergence of a global single market, where the push for standards and safety comes not from government but from the shippers and exporters themselves, seeking to bring down the costs, in which safety is a huge part since insurance is also a massive overhead.

In this regard, the industry is light years ahead of the legislative process and has no real difficulty implementing law in that bodies like the EU effectively codify that which is already in place or in the process of completion. If anything, they are rubber stamping common sense in the same way nation states would (but without the democratic safeguards).

What we do not need is the EU adding further complications by gold plating, thus creating more technical and regulatory barriers to trade, which is why ISO standards take precedence over EU standards. Just one agreement on mutual recognition of standards between the main standards bodies does more for the free movement of goods than the EU has managed in the last twenty years.

In this, the system is largely self-enforcing, in that things don't work if procedure is not followed and delay costs money. Compliance is voluntary but deviation has major costs, and losing ISO accreditation means a loss of business. Obviously though such conventions do need laws in order to tackle the more egregious abuses that cost the people, where there are negative externalities, particularly when the process pollutes and harms the environment. Again there are a global bodies involved.

At these point we can argue until the cows come home as to the EU's role and influence in all this, but the stark lesson here is that the EU is a recipient of global laws and is becoming ever more sidelined as global bodies become more assertive, where the EU's own interference is more a nuisance than a contribution.

While the EU and the UK is bogged down in a parochial discussion about the EU, the world of regulation that sits over and above the EU is far more fluid, complex and unaccountable in ways that would make even the EU blush. In essence we are beset by a euro-parochialism, obsessing over the EU when the EU is not the be all and end all of trade - and in terms of creating a global single market in goods and services, we are largely barking up the wrong tree.

What we can also say is that if the EU didn't exist, given how things stand, we wouldn't be in a rush to invent it. We would be looking to formalise and democratise the global bodies and improving their function. What we can also say is that trade facilitation is the ultimate driver of wealth and prosperity and the corporates themselves are more effective than any aid agency at delivering exactly that.

While there is every advantage in having a common European platform, pooling resources, economic clout and expertise in order to shape it as we would wish it, reducing negative externalities of trade, nowhere does it seem evident that a global single market cannot be achieved unless nations surrender their ultimate sovereignty, their seat at the top tables and abandon their ability to self-govern. Multilateral international cooperation works, and the EU is less important than other major international bodies like the UNECE.

A European bloc that can come to the table with a common position in advance of global trade talks is nearly always advantageous for the sake of political expediency, but at other times, it is more relevant if there is a common position between nations sharing particular industries and interests. And that is where the EU no longer serves our interests, if ever it did.

What we see is that the European common position is one derived from a political agenda, through supranationalism, overriding the national veto and taking shortcuts with democracy at the expense of real jobs. This is not multilateralism and cooperation. This is subjugation. The EU is just not about cooperation.

At the heart of it is a paranoia that without the EU the nations of Europe will once again be at war thus have set about creating a Europe that deprives nations of their democratic will to the ends of creating a single supreme government for Europe - one which actively prevents European nations speaking on their own behalf and getting the best for themselves and Europe.

And so when the question is posed as to what it would take for us hardline leavers to change our minds, we would have to address the central issue. Supranationalism. Were the EU to abandon supranationalism, to dismantle the institutions and cultural programmes designed to engender a single European demos, culture and government, to instead become a common forum for international progress, then I could change my mind. But then I would want to see it as a more open forum where our trading partners can also participate and shape the rules rather than having the EU dictating.

There are two basic problems here. Firstly, the entity a properly reformed EU would resemble already exists. It's called the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, and secondly, to demand reforms of this nature - of such era defining significance, we would effectively be calling for the dismantling of le grande project forever.

And so it remains the case that we are hard line leavers in that the EU cannot be reformed, will resist any attempt, and will never serve the best interests of its members - or even Europe. The EU is purely about the preservation of the EU political body that serves to advance the supranational agenda of its long dead architects.

The EU is not about trade, it is not about cooperation and it wouldn't recognise multilateralism in a billion years. Everything it does is with the intent of affording itself more power and more control while passing the responsibility and the consequences on to member states to deal with. It is here where nuisance turns to malevolence and such an affront to democracy, based on a foundation of intellectual sand, should be resisted.

If we examine EU for what it really is, it's a power cult - and one that will never stop until it holds all of the power. It confiscates our wealth then acts like some kind of benevolent Father Christmas, buying off all the institutions such as academia, NGOs and local authorities who would otherwise oppose it, so that when it comes to a popular vote the establishment will never turn on its paymaster.

It is for this reason true leavers oppose the EU with every fibre of their being. It is why opposing the EU is a spiritual call and a life obsession. It is why the issue will never go away and it is why a referendum will not settle the argument - because for as long as there are those who know what the EU really is, and its modus operandi, there will always be people willing to fight it to the bitter end.

Karren Brady: in a world of her own


"British soccer teams could find it harder to sign top European players and some players may be forced to leave if the country exits the European Union, one of the leading women in the sport said on Friday." says Reuters.

In a letter to the bosses of other teams, Karren Brady, vice-chairwoman of Premier League club West Ham, said EU membership helped players move easily to clubs in Britain because freedom of movement rules meant they did not need visas or special work permits.

Asking football chairmen to join the campaign to remain in the European Union, Brady said their clubs had benefited from membership by receiving funding to promote their sport and by being able to tempt players with cheaper flights and phone calls because of the bloc's single market.

She isn't on this planet is she? I don't suppose she has the first idea how wrong, condescending and offensive she is.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Chris Giles, king of the ignorati


Chris Giles, economics editor of the Financial Times sternly warns us that "a vote for Brexit would likewise unleash powerful transitions in Britain’s economy. The UK would need to secure access to the single European market, renegotiate EU trade deals with 60 other countries, rewrite thousands of EU regulations into UK law and come to a deal on EU citizens living in Britain and Brits abroad. None of these transitions would be easy; all have uncertain outcomes."

As discussed previously, Britain does not have to renegotiate EU "trade deals" due to the presumption of continuity in international law, and regulations do not have to be rewritten in that they are adopted standards and regulations in the first instance, and single market access requires continuity of convergence. There are plenty of discussions to be had around the finer details but Chris Giles is not even past first base when it comes to the matter of Brexit.

When challenged on this Giles patronisingly responds with a sigh, apparently suggesting Brexit is triggered by a repeal of the European Communities Act. What this tells us is that a man who presumes expertise in such matters is not even reading the debate at the shallow end - where even the odious Fraser Nelson is aware of Article 50 - even if he hasn't grasped basics of how it works. 

As much as Chris Giles has no right to be taken seriously as a journalist now, the Financial Times must be held in equal contempt in that this self-righteous, patronising individual is considered sufficiently informed to hold the title of Economics Editor. They have written themselves out of the picture.

More seriously, when the likes of Chris Giles and Fraser Nelson are paid to know what is going on yet fail to grasp the basics of a critical public debate, we are looking an an institutional failure in media, where mediocrity and stupidity is par for the course - and is lagging far behind the blogosphere. 

It's easy to see why though. Looking at other prominent figures from within the bubble and we see a class of toadying, self-referential entitled brats who consider the intrusion of us plebs onto their territory as impertinent - and long for the means of shutting us out completely (see below). 

Moreover, when challenged on their vacuous outpourings their response is not to engage, but to reassert their ignorance then scamper away, usually blocking in the process. This is their modus operandi. 

This prompts some individuals to warn that we would find them more receptive if we watched our p's and q's and doffed our caps accordingly - but experience shows that these parasites run at the first sign of dissent. That is what marks them as bubble dwellers.

As a blogger there is nothing I welcome more than to be challenged with new information, and one can only improve ones own understanding by admitting fault and incorporating new information. Not so for our media, who are defenders of their own orthodoxy in a domain they feel entitled to control. For that reason, it is right that they are humiliated and exposed. They are contemptible.


Wednesday, 27 January 2016

When is Arron Banks going to shape up?


This idiocy from a couple of days ago has been retracted by Leave.EU. However, that doesn't really count for very much when they then tweet the above. What they are saying here, as Stronger In have noticed is that, assuming this pure guesswork is true, making this argument implies no single market access on the same terms. That whole economic suicide thing we've talked about.

Moreover, what it's actually saying, as blogger, White Wednesday points out, Net migration to the UK is currently sitting at circa 340,000 per year. The report is therefore saying that net migration will still stand at c.240,000 per year in the event of a “better deal” at the point of Brexit. That equates to roughly the average annual net migration figure between 2003 and 2014. Yes, the same amount that caused all the froth over immigration in the first place.

Such a policy would largely frustrate the kind of value-added immigration we want while doing precisely nothing about the rest of our shambolic border policy. 

That then brings us on to the efforts of Dan Hodges who, while being largely wrong on the finer details, says "it’s clear the great anti-EU argument is not an anti-EU argument at all. It’s essentially an anti-immigration argument. The Out camp hasn’t even begun to set out a coherent vision of Britain’s place in the world outside of the EU. A few less Polish plumbers. That’s it."

If Hodges could look outside of his own dismal little circle, he would see that there is a thriving debate going on over and above the media's heads, but since nothing outside their own gossip circles exists by their estimations, we could never expect anything like accuracy from such people. However, the tone and the vibe is about right.

All we get from the Leave campaign is contradictory, generic whinges about the EU, with no real alternatives set out, silly histrionics and splattergun activity detached from any kind of narrative or strategy. It's Ukip all over again. 

Leave.EU is not working to any plan. It's not even working to a strategy. It is far too absorbed by a turf war to pay any attention to a communications strategy - and with every tweet undermines any sensible message opinion formers might take seriously. They have yet to realise that any strategy that does not work in cohesion with a web strategy is no strategy at all. Whatever Andy Wigmore's talents are, they are not in the realms of communications as his grandiose title suggests. 

The truth of the matter is that the public are not going to look into this much deeper than Dan Hodges has. Their opinions will be shaped by received opinions that start with the likes of Hodges and fan out through word of mouth. The vibe Leave gives off is one of incompetence, cluelessness and disarray. Certainly nothing we can expect voters to gamble the fate of the country on. 

I have previously remarked that Leave.EU is run by a chimpanzee on drugs, However, we have heard through back channels that this is not the case. Given what we've had from Leave.EU in recent weeks, perhaps, if no alternative can be found, it is time to try out the chimpanzee. It's not going to do a worse job and at the very least wouldn't undermine the people who are trying to give us a shot at winning. If this is how it is to be then there is little point wasting another nanosecond on this cause. 

Sunday, 24 January 2016

You win Ukip. Have it your way: full EU membership


If I think back, a very long time ago, I was at a busy Ukip conference in Scarborough. I think this was around the time when Jeffrey Titford was leader. I had a lot of respect for him because he treated people well. I think at that time the party membership was in tune with the leader, and despite having a very left wing social circle, being a DJ on the underground techno scene, I was never ashamed to say I was a Ukipper. It was a different party back then.

At the Scarborough conference, Farage was in full flow on stage, when an interloper came in from the back, shouting about mass immigration. This was one of the few times I have seen Farage look awkward in front of a crowd. He didn't want to address the question and in the crowd there was an unsettled clucking. There was a reason for that.

Ukip at the time knew very well that as a right wing upstart party it could not afford any accusations of racism - consequently, we mentioned immigration only in passing. It wasn't our thing. That was for the BNP who were starting to grow on the back of it. Ukip had an inbuilt instinct that we did not want their sort.

Now I won't deny, we had our share of goofballs, some who were insistent that the EU was a CIA funded Bilderberg plot, and that wasn't an unpopular view within some corners of Ukip. Fruitcake was in plentiful supply, but on the whole, the ordinary members were decent middle class people concerned with the direction the EU was going in. These are the folks who would have a tough time recognising their party as racist having not seen what I've seen around the internet.

As the party matured, immigration was clearly more of an issue. Personally, I don't think immigration was the real issue. It was more an uneasy feeling that the nation was undergoing a transformation for the worse. And it was. There was something not quite right.

It was a time of massive indulgence and retail was exploding thanks to a burst of cheap Chinese goods all purchased on readily available credit cards. The influx of Polish tradesmen were symptom of a spending boom which had been stimulated on the back of nothing all that tangible as far as anyone could see. We were creating money from nothing. When the 2008 crash happened, nobody I knew was all that shocked or surprised.

As a result, Ukip attracted a large following of hardline libertarians, fashioned after Ron Paul who had made a name for himself in the US presidential race. My own views at the time were not too far removed. The word "libertarian" even featured in the Ukip constitution and Farage thought it astute to dance along to that tune for a while.

However, the big secondary crash, killing off the Euro, the one that all the disaster-porn loonies were hoping for didn't materialise and once again Ukip found its fortunes waning. And that brings us up to the last euro-elections when Farage did the unthinkable - the political equivalent of invading Russia. Immigration. Those posters.

That day I knew that Ukip had ceased to pay attention to that essential message discipline that had brought the party sustainable growth for a number of consecutive years. In one ill judged move, Farage traded sustainable growth for media attention, gambling the party's fortunes on the implosion of the BNP. The trade-off paid some dividend in that he swept the boards for MEPs. But that didn't matter.

Or rather it did. Nigel Farage has always been a chancer and has never been a great one for detail or preparation. I can recall him rolling up to a venue after a long drive and give one of his thundering speeches without any notes, and without the media eye on us, it didn't matter too much if he was a bit loose on the specifics. But he never managed to shake that mentality. He felt pestered by detail and resented anybody troubling him with it.

That then explains the people he is now surrounded by and why we have the likes of Jill Seymour in place of somebody competent and sane. It was then no surprise that a party lacking a manifesto, no preparation and nothing but anti-immigration rhetoric to go on that they would find themselves in the media killzone and completely defenceless.

Worse still, the stronger the rhetoric, the more the party grew. And that wasn't a good thing. Because he was acting as an enabler for the BNP inclined to come out of the woodwork and establish a serious foothold within the party. They are now a force within the membership - and I suspect a good reason why so many have since parted company with them.

This growth was attracting a demographic that, as we have pointed out several times, has an inbuilt glass ceiling, where the more an agenda appeals to that cohort the more repellent it is to everyone else. And so what was left after the Farage gambit was a party not inclined to conceal its loathing of Muslims and not inclined to moderate their message even slightly. Even now, to suggest being politically astute is to be a "limp wristed PC liberal".

And so when aggressive Ukippers demand of me that I acknowledge that we wouldn't be having a referendum were it not for Farage, I am forced to ask what the point was? You see, having enabled some of the most disgusting politics presently in circulation, creating a crossover into Britain First and Pegida, we now have a referendum lineup that resembles pretty much the same one we had in 1975 - racists, losers, hardcore Tories, and Trotskyite whackjobs.

I grant you that these racists (yes, I said that word) represent the minority of Ukip but Ukip has not made any intelligent moves to dissuade them, nor has it been in a rush to put distance between itself and Breitbart which is only too happy to whip up the scummier elements.

Consequently, with Ukip unable to make the running for the designation, Leave.eu steps into the vacuum, assuming that Ukip is the asset rather than the liability. Naturally, nu-kippers think since the referendum is notionally their achievement that they have a god given right to own the message, rather neglecting to observe that they are actually the latecomers, following in our wake, largely on the back of infrastructure built by the Ukip I knew.

And that is what the last few weeks of debate on this blog and others has been about. A battle between the minority of very vocal and openly racist kippers and those who were with Ukip almost from the beginning, who have put decades of work into getting us here and have researched the issues from every angle.

A choice was put in front of Arron Banks. A dilemma. Should he break away from a grunting bunch of misanthropes and embrace a progressive message that can win, or should he turn inward to keep his adoptive tribe loyal to him? He could have used some of his resource and his personal connections to find out if such foaming ranters had any standing within the party but instead elected to retweet them so as to demonstrate his loyalty to the Ukip message.

In fact, it was a battle between the oldest of old Ukip and the newest of the new. It would now appear that the latter has won. Banks is in no way perturbed by his obvious Breitbart and Ukip connections and in the end, flies the flag for the Muslim hating baying mob.

And so in the run up to selection for lead designation, on the one hand we have a band of treacherous Tories with one foot in both camps, who can't even confirm that they are firmly a Leave operation - and then on the other hand we have Leave.eu. Continuity Ukip - with all that this entails.

And so unless there is an anonymous millionaire out there who can help us establish a third player, it matters not one jot who wins the designation - because looking at the two available options - Leave has already lost and there is nothing to play for. So I again ask Ukip what the point of all this was, and why exactly should anyone thank Farage for the poisoned chalice he has handed us?

A pathetic show from the Leave campaigns


I'm going to skip out on attacking the waffle of Lord Rose. We've taken his tiresome propaganda apart before and the rest of our work speaks to his empty rhetoric. This comes under "Europhile says europhile things". What bothers us is the pathetic showing by both of the leave campaigns in response.

However, Vote Leave used research from Civitas to support its case. Civitas studied official trade statistics and said that Britain had recorded slower export growth than any of the other founding nations of Europe's single market. Michael Burrage, who wrote the report, said: "While the single market cannot be counted a success in export terms for the EU as a whole, for the UK it must be counted at the very least a massive disappointment, and not far short of a disaster."

Vote Leave chief executive Matthew Elliott said: "The unquestioning mantra that the single market has been good for British trade is wrong and should be challenged as this research makes crystal clear."
First off this gets us deep into Top Trumps territory, with each side soon to be firing off salvos of meaningless statistics, losing half of the public who don't know what trade figures really mean, don't really care and don't really know who to believe.

Then to say that the single market is "not far short of disaster" is objectively insane. We've been in it for a long time, the worst of the transitional pain was over in the mid-nineties and an unmolested supply chain within Europe could not by any measure be viewed as a bad thing in our modern economy. As much as removal of tariffs is good, so is the harmonsiation of regulation and the removal of barriers to trade.

Our argument is that the EU stands in the way of more harmonisation and is an obstacle to growing such trading freedoms. Instead, Vote Leave apparently wants to send that process into reverse, which is exactly the same idiocy we complained about earlier today from Leave.eu.

Attacking the single market though, rules out any possibility of claiming you are selling a risk free soft-landing Brexit. Vote Leave is telling business to prepare for a single market exit right about the time when we have seen softened rhetoric from them; offering the nuanced view that Britain would not suffer greatly if single market membership were continued. This is lunacy.

Moreover, why is Matthew Elliott even speaking to this? His main skill is sweet-talking old men out of large amounts of money and hiring Toryboy interns to hand out helium balloons. What in gods name is Vote Leave doing letting the man out in public?

The BBC then notes that "Other opponents to EU membership also argue that the UK's trade position with the EU would not change much in the event of a vote to leave. "The Leave.eu organisation said "given that we buy more from the EU than it buys from us" the EU would be unlikely to change Britain's trade terms."

You know who makes that argument? Morons, that's who. That's the stock answer given by wafflers who don't know very much about EU trade when they're in a tight spot against more clued up europhiles. That is no basis for saying trade terms would not change. It is entirely dependent on the method of leaving - and by inference, their own dismal memery also implies leaving the single market - so yes, it monumentally changes the terms of trade.

From this, when the europhiles say eurosceptics want to turn back the clock and isolate ourselves, they are absolutely right. There are no prominent voices among the eurosceptics making any other case.

Since any exporters will have to conform to international standards, they are by default complying with EU rules and so there is no regulatory divergence to be had, nor is there any value in having different domestic codes since producers and suppliers of physical goods and vendors of digital services will opt for the highest available standards anyway - not least as part of their sales pitch.

We have been over this time and again with both of the Leave campaigns, and how crucial it is to understand that a single market is more than just a mere "free trade area" - which to their minds simply means zero tariffs. Regulation and standards are central to this debate - in that they are becoming ever more globalised without democratic oversight in a way even the EU is ill-equipped to tackle. Our campaign is not even on the right page. They are trapped in 1992.

In the end this vote comes down to voters making a choice between two products on display. One is what we have now and the relative safety and predictability that offers - or what the collective product of the Leave campaign is. What they are offering is risk, turmoil and no incentive - all on their rather vague assurance that it will probably be all right. Would you vote for that? Of course not.

Moreover, this is also complete insanity in that we are chasing a political impossibility. Our own civil servants would tell the government that something akin with the Norway Option is the only safe means of exit and that's all we're going to get if we do vote out. In effect the Leave campaign is demanding something that won't win the referendum and is not on offer under any realistic circumstances. Talk about snatching a defeat from the jaws of victory!

Given that both Leave campaigns have set course for the rocks, with Vote Leave being wholly malevolent and Leave.eu producing issue-illiterate gibberish, there is zero likelihood we can sell Brexit. The case for leaving will be taken apart in the crucible of public debate, after which we will be ridiculed. Once that happens, the vibe is impossible to recapture and we won't be able to shake the stench of failure. And though the British electorate make some questionable choices at times, they have shown a resolute wisdom in rejecting the politics of losers.

A change of europhile tactics


Most people have noticed that the Remain campaing is an empty husk. All we get is a daily drip of Chicken Licken panic over what might happen. The other arm of their campaign is just to keep repeating the same old lies about workers rights and investment. They don't engage or debate. They just move past the hard targets and repeat the lies elsewhere. They go quiet for a time then pop up when the coast is clear to tell the same lie.

But hereabove we see a change of europhile tactics. They have softened the rhetoric because the scare stories only have reach with the europhile diehards. The rest of us think it's hyperventilation. What we get instead is an iron fist in a velvet glove.

The headline will be spread with glee by kippers and less discerning Leavers, but those who actually read the article will see it lends itself to the europhile arguments about research programmes that the europhiles perceive to be their strongest suit with liberal-minded opinion formers. In it we also see the usual hackneyed tripe about being stronger inside a trading bloc and that it's “better to sit at the table to drive the changes than not to be invited to the table”.

Readers of this blog will know in some detail why this is unmitigated bullshit, but you have to hand it to the europhiles, it's a handy piece of maneuvering. Little manipulations are far more effective than a big lie - and even better if you can get the opposition to spread them for you.

This of course will escape most of the Leavers who won't have cottoned on that it's a confidence trick. The fact that it's an apparently Brexit favourable headline in the Guardian should cause anyone with half a brain to smell a rat immediately.

This is essentially the work of a clever campaign that knows exactly how to play the media game and how to insert messages into the public debate. It's expert media management. This however, demands a degree of subtlety that escapes the likes of Leave.EU - and could never master it even if they had a worthwhile message beyond a generic gripe against the EU. Remain is playing chess while we are playing tiddlywinks.

And this is really why I have little left but contempt for the Leave campaigns. They are so blinded by certitude and hypnotised by their own dogma they can't even begin to realise they're being used as useful idiots. At least they are useful to someone, I suppose.

A message to fellow Brexit bloggers

Banks and Wigmore of Leave.EU

Folks, to me it looks like there is zero chance of Leave.eu getting its act together. The pleasing reassurances we have had seem entirely disingenuous, and they are simply buying off resistance with crumbs from their table. Were they serious about listening to a single thing we have said, we would have seen some evidence of it by now - or would at least have put the rampant stupidity on pause.

Tonight demonstrates no such thinking has gone on, there is no safety mechanism to prevent them publishing stupidity and they have no intention of deferring to our expertise. Say what you like about our overall output, the one thing you can say is that when it comes to regulation we have more of a clue than most. They didn't even ask us about that.

Andy Wigmore, so-called Head of Communications for Leave.eu excuses himself by saying "Mate its a very detailed survey that's all - judge it for yourself - I want you to see it so you understand the findings that we publish."

I don't need to see the numbers. I know a crap argument that won't stand up when I see one and I know what can be inferred from the "bonfire of regulations" nonsense. How many times have I written about that?

I am sick of the "look at the numbers" excuses. Our role as a leave campaign is to set the agenda, to inform, educate and to control the debate - to shift it into our killzone. Feeding pleasing message to various cohorts without any coordination with a message is just scattergun campaigning and is not viable for fighting a referendum. Again, we have written about that ad nauseam.

In truth, Wigmore has zero experience or ability in communications and is largely a skivvy for Banks - an apologist for a campaign he has little influence over. To Banks though, this is just an empire building turf war, akin with Marlo Stanfield on The Wire - cutting through the competition to become the big cheese with no competition. This is 100% an ego venture for a bored middle-aged insurance salesman.

Moreover, the pair of them are unable to let go of the penchant for Kipperism, foolishly attaching themselves to Breitbart which at times crosses over into naked xenophobia. We note that Farage has been nicely quarantined in a different branch of the campaign, but that is largely redundant if Leave.eu is going to waffle on in the same ill-judged fashion.

Now I know all this was hugely predictable and many who have already been through the Banks mill warned us in advance, but we had to go through the motions just on the off chance. Personally I was sceptical from the beginning - and though Wigmore still maintains he would go with Flexcit were it up to him, his justification for the idiotic meme about regulation tells me that he hasn't understood it even if he has read it.

Against the backdrop of all the other deceptions I would say that Wigmore has been lying and stringing us all along, just to take a bit of the heat off. Certainly the unequivocal tweets from Banks, distancing himself from Flexcit, show that he is less than genuine.

It rather looks like he's bottled it after getting a hard time from the Kipper zealots, who would rather lose than stop grunting about foreigners. I watched with interest as he backed away from Flexcit, making a point of retweeting the more vocal Ukipper critics, particularly this one, and ones of her ilk; Farage worshipping, Muslim obsessed lunatics who would even be expelled from Ukip if it ever managed to develop a functioning vetting system.

These are the people who Arron Banks is allowing to set the agenda without even bothering to check if they represent Ukip values. When the anti-racists start the digging on Leave.eu Twitter bedfellows, they will have a field day. Frankly, I will take some persuading not to show them where to look. Personally, I could not find a home in any party that tolerates such people even if I subscribed to Farage's ideas. 

The irony is that Leave.eu hand out mugs with the words "I'm not being taken for a mug" but it very much feels like I have, and we are actually starting to wonder if this isn't some sort of private joke between the pair of them in that they are taking all supporters of leave.eu for mugs. It reminds me of the Wildhearts who managed to sell their entire crowd identical black t-shirts with the words "demand the right to be an individual".

As to Richard North's supposed consulting for Leave.eu, consulting is when the client listens. By the output from Leave.eu we can say with some justification that every single piece of advice has been rejected outright. At this point, Leave.EU might as well go full kipper and start ranting about Muslims and the EUSSR because there is little to distinguish them from that cohort anyway. Certainly the original Banks strategy of "bait and switch" has little chance of working now that his brand is so inextricably linked to the lunaKips.

As to where that leaves Richard North, it is entirely up to him. I'm not going to be pissed around by these losers a moment longer - nor can I expect fellow bloggers to give Leave.eu an easy ride when all the while they are pissing on our work. So I say fill yer boots lads. Stick the blade in as deep as the knife will go.

As to where we stand, we started our activity on the base assumption that the lead Leave campaign would be utterly pathetic so really we are just continuing with Plan A, trying to do our best to win the intellectual argument and shoot the Leave.eu dog if it shits on our lawn.

Naturally that means we are on our own, so, as discussed, recruitment of more bloggers is our priority number one. Also since there is now zero chance of finding any funding, I won't be doing this much longer and will have to find myself some sort of bullshit day job to to pay the bills.

My personal recommendation to Richard North is that unless there is a very very significant gesture from Banks in the next week then he should stop wasting his time and we will instead go ahead with our appeal for funds independently through the main blog. Leave.eu has done nothing but offer empty promises, and have continued to bullshit us, and will likely drop us like a stone once they have won the designation. Arron Banks likes to play the eurosceptic Father Christmas, but he doesn't deliver.

As it stands I think Leave.EU have no more chance of winning this than Vote Leave, so who wins the designation is now a matter of supreme indifference. All we can do is try our best to make our voice cut through the noise by doing that which we do best - coherent, solid, factual arguments. I'm through being lied to by these total amateurs and I am not surrendering to the Ukipper zealots either. I am not going out without a fight.

Leave.EU is letting us down badly


Leave.EU are going all out for stupid again. They make reference to a stupid meme statistic that only 5% of businesses export thus 95% of the UK should not have to comply with regulations.

This is the bit where you would expect me to write a long and detailed post outlining why this is tactically (and factually) stupid. I won't. This stuff really does knock the stuffing out of me. What's the point? It's one of those go-to-bed-angry sort of days.

After all that has been written, if this is still the prevailing message then it's wasted effort. As much as Leave.EU and Vote Leave have irreconcilable differences, their underlying message is essentially the same. The usual eurosceptic baggage that dates back to the early nineties. It runs entirely contrary to the message this blog has been promoting and my hits tell me just how little interest is shown in that.

Anyone trying to push a a modern and enlightened Brexit vision is very much pissing in the wind with no mainstream support. In fact, the mainstream campaigns by the looks are philosophically opposed to what we propose and are dead set on undermining it. If one cares to measure what can be inferred from their outpourings with the message of global engagement, you can see that they are mutually exclusive.

It really rather looks like the Brexit cause is made up of clueless free market tories, deranged kippers and disgruntled leftists. Anybody sane will just vote on the basis of who is the least repellent. That's why it looks very much like we have already lost.

Leave.EU is barely past first base in its understanding of the issues and is not inclined to listen to expertise, Vote Leave Ltd is wholly malevolent and we're sat in the middle with no money and no resources with which to fight an effective middle ground message.

Were it not for the fact that I am materially, emotionally and spiritually invested in leaving the EU I would listen to my better judgement and walk away from this. I could be doing something better than this. But I will continue, not in the spirit of winning, but with a view to damage control. Leave.eu is certain to hand us a defeat, and eurosceptics as a whole do not actually deserve to win, but we can at least limit the scale of the defeat so that maybe sometime in the future we can leave.

What this hereabove suggests is that Leave.EU hasn't read Flexcit, much less understood it, and are still foolishly running a data driven campaign. Consequently they will spend the whole campaign chasing every passing car and barking up every tree. There will be no coherence or consistency and there will be no strategy. If they haven't figured out by now why that's dangerous, we can take it as read they they are not going to.

All I can say is that the public had best choose all their MEPs more wisely at the next euro elections since we are more than likely staying in the EU now. Don't say we didn't warn you.

The Chicken Licken europhiles can't let go of the past

This week has seen a mix of views from Norway with some Norwegian MPs saying "Norway is proof it can work on your own. We rejected EU membership and we’ve never looked back". Others say different. Consequently, what we can count on throughout is a game of Top Trumps as to which Norwegians we should believe - with the BBC invoking the words of any Europhile Norwegian they can find. You pays your money, you takes your choice.

The broader argument is that the Norway option does not free us from EU hegemony. Some have it that while EU law in theory is not supreme, in practice it is. Indeed, if we look at the Norwegian No campaign, their view of the EEA agreement is less than rosy, saying that it has "proved to have a far broader scope and more serious consequences than described by the government when the agreement was approved by the national assembly".

Much like the UK situation we see a political establishment far more keen on membership than its peoples - who, incidentally, voted decisively against EU membership. It could be said that the EEA agreement was a move to put Norway into the hands of the EU without a mandate.

This is not to say that Norway has no influence or veto, but the means by which Norway influences decision making is far from transparent, and its role is not widely understood. There are legal instruments within the EEA agreement that require full consultation and there is veto mechanism, the mere threat of which is nearly always sufficient to secure agreement before legislation goes anywhere near a vote. It isn't ideal and the arrangement seems to suggest that much is tilted in the EUs favour.

This is grounds enough for some Eurosceptics to reject the Norway Option, but the immediate problem is that the alternatives are worse, far more difficult to achieve politically and carry a good deal more risk. Europhiles on the other hand have it that because there is no optimal EU alternative on the table that we should simply resign ourselves to the hegemony of the EU and be done with it. In for a penny, in for a pound.

But such on both counts is to lose sight of what we are seeking to accomplish. As we noted this week, there has been a massive revolution in global governance since the EEA agreement, where the lines of accountability are far from clear. The globalisation of regulation and the establishment of a hierarchy on global standards has largely sidelined the EU, making it a taker of law rather than a maker of it. 

As it fights to stay relevant it uses its collective might to assert itself on the global stage not to secure a better trading environment, rather it seeks to dominate and dictate - and in the process destroying multilateralism and crushing the innovations that only diversity can deliver. 

Given the pace of globalisation, what we need is a system that recognises every voice, rather than a supranational entity that stifles member states for expediency and convenience. Looking at the global matrix of rule making that sits above the EU, we see a vast network of interrelating institutions and organisations, each vulnerable to corruption and corporate lobbying, with very little media attention and virtually no public scrutiny. It is there where we need to be fully engaged and shaping the rule-making.

To say that "Europe" needs reform is to miss the bigger picture in that these anonymous arms of governance, the IMO, UNECE and ISO are in serious need of politicisation and democratisation. It is there were we should seek deeper reforms and increase participation and representation at all levels. When looking at the scale of it the "big EU debate" looks rather quaint. 

This of course is not going to happen without a major shift in the balance of power, exposing more disagreements at this level. In this, Brexit is a means to weaken the EU hegemony, strengthening Efta and lending our weight to Norway so to revise the EEA agreement. 

We fully recognise that the EEA/Efta option is sub-optimal - but the point is that there is a long road to travel in order to arrive at something that works - and we will have to accept a number of compromises in order to start off this process of reform, which is a reform of global governance as well as a reform of European continental politics.

This is far bigger than just deciding if we want to be part of an archaic and obsolete inward looking little "club". We are not looking to preserve the old order - we are looking to let go of the past and start evolving to meet the challenges of this new global technological age.

Brexit is bigger in scope and more necessary than ever so that we have a full voice in shaping the world rather than being subordinate to the EUs fight for relevance. In this we are coming to the defence of democracy, for Britain and Efta members, being the safety switch on EU dominance. 

The truth is, it is the Europhiles who are fighting to turn the clocks back and seek to deny the last two decades of global progress. It is they who fear change, it is they who cannot let go of the past. It is given away by the nature of the Remain campaign which is nothing but threats and dire warnings of disaster. Chicken Lickens promising the sky will fall in if we dare to embrace reality. 

The point of Brexit is to admit that the the grand federalist pipedream is over. It's time to admit that it is no longer fit for purpose and does not match the realities of the modern age. It is time to embark upon a new journey. It is a long journey, fraught with complexities and a degree of risk - but also a great many opportunities for prosperity, influence and democracy in ways the old order simply cannot deliver. Brexit is an opportunity to rise to the challenge and we should not let the niggling problematising of Europhiles deter us from doing what what is both urgent and necessary. 

The internet creates the global marketplace, the problems of migration are global, the environmental challenges are likewise. In this we need every voice to be heard and everybody participating in a community of equals. For that we need a revised system of governance and massive reform of the institutions.

The treaties that form the basis of the UN are from a time few are alive to remember - and even the EU was forged at a time before my birth. We cannot be governed by the ghosts of the past. Now is the time to let go of our euro-delusions and get to grips with the world as it is, rather than the one our elites imagined in the previous century.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Objectives for the Leave campaign


Leave.eu is boasting about delivering tens of thousands of leaflets. Big. fat. MEH! This is activity for the sake of activity. There is a long road between now and the vote and a leaflet is next to worthless. This is not productive campaigning. In terms of progression we are still nowhere.

Running a campaign is not simply a matter of obtaining exposure and keeping busy. We have to shape the debate. All we can really say in favour of Leave.EU just recently is that it is marginally less awful than it was and has at least turned the stupid dial down a notch.

That though is insufficient to gain momentum and energise the debate. This is why we cannot sit around waiting for them to act and this is why, once again, we are appealing for more bloggers to come forward.

There are specific objectives we must achieve in order to progress the debate. As LeaveHQ notes this morning we are witnessing a barrage of fearmongering. We can kill all that stone dead by committing to a plan and taking the uncertainties out of the equation. After which we can focus on selling the opportunities and talking up the positives.

We have heard much in the way of pleasing sounds from Leave.EU in terms of intent, but every week that goes by without a definitive plan set out, we allow more of the same fearmongering to flood out without the means to challenge it. Leave.eu is coasting.

Having done the math as to the best possible exit strategy, Flexcit does dictate a certain path but as we note, the political realities of Brexit means that our own civil servants will be locked into a similar path whether we like it or not and so we might as well accept it and get on with it. The point about conceding on freedom of movement appears to be becoming less of an issue by the day as the framework for it is disintegrating.

On the forums and Facebook pages, I am winning every debate hands down, but the only hole in my arguments is that the case I put forward of a managed and orderly exit is undermined from both of the major Leave campaigns. Leave.eu through inaction, and Vote Leave through what now looks to be deliberate sabotage. If they have both set course for the rocks, then I am out on my own.

While the kipperists and their absolutist approach will be trounced, especially by those experienced campaigners who geared to fight Ukip during the election, my approach meets very little resistance as the opposition is not equipped to argue. In this it would be nice to have a Leave campaign that supports activists rather than undermining them.

Certainly my campaign comrades and fellow bloggers are becoming impatient and I am not hearing much that really persuades me that anything of substance is happening. The prevarication and procrastination we have seen is not good enough. The u-turns we have seen are both damaging and distressing. Exactly how long should we wait? When will Leave.eu get its act together?

We urgently need to neutralise the FUD, redefine the debate parameters and offer an alternative. We could very easily shift the goalposts entirely and wrongfoot the opposition. We would be there already if the LeaveHQ.com message were getting out. But instead, we've seen Leave.eu retweeting the usual kipperish histrionics that make most moderate and same people laugh out loud.

If we take it as read that the Ukip inclined vote is about the same as its polling in the election, we can say that the hard-line element who evidently set Ukips online message represent a far smaller figure. The basic math tells you that cannot win. So why is Leave.eu dancing to their tune?

I have blunted my criticism of Leave.eu over the last few weeks on the promise of results. I am running out of patience - and I am not alone. What's it to be?

For sure, nobody who's on the ball wants to see Vote Leave Ltd take the designation and I am certain that would be a disaster, but if Leave.eu is not going to up its game and continues to be a damp squib, then we are all wasting our energy.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Bent banana histrionics


The Daily Express is outraged.
A vote by MEPs in Strasbourg backed proposals to subject household oven gloves to industrial safety standards. Oven gloves for protection will have to go through rigorous testing to ensure that they can withstand heat of up to 200 degrees centigrade. It is believed the change could force up the price of the products by up to 20 per cent.
The new EU legislation stated: "In order to ensure a high level of protection, the scope of this regulation should include products which are explicitly described and marketed accordingly by their manufacturers for private use to protect against heat."
Decorative or "artisanal" oven gloves "for which the manufacturer does not explicitly claim a protective function" were excluded from the rules. And an attempt to apply the same standards to washing up gloves and umbrellas was voted down.
I do not believe we need EU rules on what we wear in our homes to do the washing up Tory MEP Vicky Ford. Ukip MEP Jill Seymour said: "First the EU came for your vacuum cleaner, then your oven and now in a new bout of craziness, even our oven gloves. What is the EU going to restrict next ? Soap?
First off the bat, without even looking this smells very much like the adoption of a new or harmonised ISO standard. I expect there already is a level of regulation in this regard and like many other votes we have seen just recently, not least the level of sugar in baby food, is just a move to harmonise European standards with the global standard.

But let's suppose for a moment we could take this entirely at face value. Who cares? Apart from Kipper MEPs and the nihilistic, and ever so slightly dim, Vicky Ford?

One of the best things about living in the West is the fact that much we buy in the supermarkets we can buy on the assumption that it is safe to use or consume, and that it is fit for purpose. One might think it a good idea that *oven* gloves could, y'know, withstand high temperatures? And one might expect that if they are labelled as "protective gloves", maybe they ought to protect against injury.

As to whether this increases the cost, we are not exactly talking about one of lifes staples here. How often does one purchase oven gloves? 

As to what else the standards apply to, that is maybe something worthy of debate, but classification of goods and testing is a huge part of what a single market is. So when thicky Ford asserts that we do not need such rules, she is manifestly wrong. If rubber gloves are used with household chemicals then the whole point of them is to protect the hands - and if they claim to do the job of protection then they should be classified and tested as such. 

Then to invoke Pastor Martin Niemoeller in reference to OVEN GLOVES is just surreal. I'm not going to go to the barricades over oven gloves. But Seymour also asks, what is the EU going to restrict next? Soap? Well, that really depends on the kind of soap and what it is used for and how it is marketed. And no, soap won't be next because if she thinks back, soap has already been regulated and she got her undergarments all bunched up over that as well.

This is the same Jill Seymour who saw fit to get worked up about the EU nodding through a raft of updates to aviation safety regulations, requiring helicopter operators to add engine management devices. Seriously, how DARE they make our helicopters safer? The bastards.

Meanwhile, on this blog we are trying to establish the origin of the processes by which some of these standards come about, where we discover a very serious democratic deficit in a regulatory system that is totally off the media radar. This makes for a serious case for leaving the EU, yet all we get from the kippers is silly and embarrassing histrionics.  

If anything it is Ukip that demonstrates why the EU parliament is entirely the wrong vehicle for scrutinising regulation and EU law, in that the process and the people are not remotely equipped for the job. As dense as Ukip MEPs are, they are not that far removed from the institutional norm.

There is a serious case to make that too much is happening without democratic oversight and regulation is a major area of concern. What we definitely don't need is is the Leave campaign and those associated with it discrediting the seriousness of the cause by hyperventilating over total nonsense. If EU critics cannot do better than this in the public eye, they have no right to be taken seriously.

The smoke and mirrors of global governance


One of our key arguments is that the EU obscures the vast matrix of international governance that sits above the EU. Much of what we assume to be just another EU directive is the culmination of several years of back room efforts starting at the very top of the global governance chain, conducted in secret to all intents and purposes.

If you are one of the officials or specialists involved you would protest that such was not conducted in secret, but insofar as anybody in the media is concerned, it does not exist and wouldn't think to look for it. It is an open secret, there for all to see if only one chooses to look. It is these treaties and conventions that set both the agenda and the legislative timetable for the EU Commission.

Mapping the processes preceding the EU adoption is no easy feat, not least because there is no single path to follow, no commonality in the participants and highly fluid relationships between them. The comprise of industry bodies, NGOs, unions, government delegations, UN bodies, technical agencies and standards bodies.

Such a process exists to deal with subjects as diverse as road safety, food marketing, ocean pollution, water quality, forestry, electronics - you name it. Global trade requires global regulation and global problems require a common approach to solutions. One such focus is counterfeiting of goods and food fraud - which also encompasses the tobacco industry. Given the scale of the elicit trade, it results in massive revenue loss for governments. Up with this they will not put.

On 12 November 2012, the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), ratified by 178 countries, adopted by consensus the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products. This was the culmination of more than five years of complex negotiations at inter-governmental level.

The Protocol contains a range of provisions and obligations for Governments who ratify this instrument, including measures and standards in the areas of Supply Chain Control. Significant work will be required by the Parties to define what each of the provisions mean in practice within their own legal frameworks. Some of the key obligations deal with Supply Chain Control and is seen as the heart of the Protocol, commonly referred to as ‘Tracking and tracing’.

By the time UK industry had become aware of it, it appeared on their radar as an EU initiative. The Federation of Wholesale Distributors reported it as thus;
A European Parliament proposal to force tobacco wholesalers to track every outer of cigarettes and rolling tobacco is a burden on those who operate within the law, rather than a deterrent to those who break it, says the Federation of Wholesale Distributors. The EU Tobacco Directive announced today is intended to strengthen the rules on how tobacco products can be manufactured, presented and sold. 
It will introduce compulsory record keeping on the movement of tobacco goods through the supply chain “in order to strengthen the fight against illicit trade and falsified products.” This will impose enormous administrative costs on distributors who already operate on tiny margins. UK wholesalers who work within the law say it should be duty-avoiding importers and manufacturers of counterfeit cigarettes who are restricted by legislation, not them.
It would be unfair to say that the media was wholly negligent in that a fairly thorough report appears on Reuters but makes only a passing reference to the convention. As far as any of our newspapers are concerned, this is "Crazy EU red tape" fodder for their hacks - if they bother to report it at all.

The major objection from the big international tobacco firms - Philip Morris International, British American, Japan Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco already use a track and trace system called Codentify, developed by Philip Morris, which they say works perfectly well. They do not want to have to add costly third-party systems to their massive operations, which turned out more than 2 trillion cigarettes last year.

"Our biggest concern is proprietary solution providers pushing unproven solutions on to governments," said Daniel Hubert, BAT's supply chain tracking and verification program manager and a director of the Digital Coding & Tracking Association (DCTA), a group made up of BAT, Philip Morris, Japan Tobacco and Imperial.

This prompted DCTA to attempt a "trojan horse" effort by using its "lobbying" influence at CEN, the European Standards agency. Since the standards embodied in the regulation give the substance to regulation, there seemed to be the logical place to attempt to influence the law outside of EU processes. There was an attempt to push their own packaging standards as the primary standard.

In anticipation of regulation industry very often conspires to self-regulate in order to mitigate the effects of regulation imposed upon them. It is a collaborative effort that seeks to balance the needs of the industry with the purpose of the law. The development of enables market players, in all their diversity, to adopt a self-regulation approach. This in part is why organisations like DCTA exist - and are often involved at the very top in the formation of global conventions.

It is through participating in ISO and CEN that they can influence the substance of laws largely without the law-makers noticing. Except in this instance, the EU noticed. A top Commission health official intervened to scuttle the campaign and told CEN to keep out of the way. A fuller account of the dispute appears in this report. It must be read in full.

As far as the Europhiles are concerned, this is an example of Brussels clout overcoming the might of the evil tobacco companies (because everything they do is evil, right?). Maybe so. If you're a classic leftist, this is the EU doing what it is supposed to do in being a counterweight to corporate lobbying - and it's all the better propaganda in this instance in that the antagonist is a tobacco consortium.

However, one might also conclude that in any other instances with a different industry involved, that "corporate lobbying" is fighting to protect jobs and defend us against burdensome regulation - and such lobbying could very well garner support from super-unions within the various structures. It's really a matter of perspective. To side with the EU on this really rather depends on how one evaluates the effectiveness of the proposed measures - and who was lobbying for the complex and expensive watermarking system the tobacco firms must adopt.

This simple mantra of "corporate lobbying" is often invoked as though it were a uniformly bad things when in fact the involvement of industry is an essential part of the consultative process. Associations of large and small companies flexing their influence at all levels should be seen as a healthy thing to ensure the right balance is struck between the needs of employers, workers and consumers.

What is apparent is that there is a schism in the system in that there are distinct overlaps between the parties involved, with considerable overlaps of competency, duplication and one hand not knowing what the other is doing. We can certainly argue that the standards bodies should remain independent but it is clear there is a much greater need for oversight. In all such instances we must ask to whom are they accountable?

Across the board we see technical agencies and quasi-regulators, from CEN to the IMO, insisting they are purely technical, wither in the light of day, and seek desperately not to be politicised. By that they mean democratised - but when such bodies control the roll-out of standards and codes of practice, and to an extent when they come into force, we can reasonably say that these are arms of government.

Moreover, these bodies list themselves as charities and trusts, funded by the corporates themselves, along with, as we have previously noted, philanthropic trusts such as Bloomberg and the Gates Foundation, whose agendas are largely known only to themselves. The fact that large donations to Interpol come from some of the very companies they are investigating should raise a few eyebrows.

Eurosceptics have it that the EU is corrupt and unaccountable, but as it happens, while there is corruption it is the more transparent entity in the multi-agency make up of international law. And if at this point you have concluded that I don't know what the hell I'm talking about, you would be absolutely right. That's the point - very few do - and some of the comments from officials in the report I linked to are illuminating. "This backflip left industry observers aghast. “Frankly, it does not happen that often that the Commission manages to put a technical committee on ice,” said an expert working on standards."

Wrapping this up, I am unable to offer any hard and fast conclusions, except that it is another piece of the puzzle in how corporates dominate the global governance agenda, often using specialist lawyers to muzzle various agencies, who themselves are far from transparent. Agreements between such agencies, like the Vienna Agreement of 1991, are of major significance, bringing about a global hierarchy in standards and essentially a global regulatory framework, yet the institutions are largely accountable to no-one.

If it is practically unheard of for even the EU to put the brakes on technical committees who steer the substance of regulation then the europhile claim that the EU affords us clout simply doesn't hold water. Given that MEPs are largely ignorant of the process and the Commission being largely unaware of what it is adopting on our behalf, there is a clear case for Britain acting independently and re-tasking Westminster on far more robust scrutiny than is presently applied by the EU.

What we need is a re-purposed government which is fully aware of, and engaged in, the process of adopting global conventions and being a major participant in their creation. But were you to mention any of this to the likes of say, Liz Kendall, who thinks Fraser Nelson is a considered intellect, you'd be met with a blank stare.

Westminster is presently an adult crèche where the real business of governance seldom ever intrudes. It is for this reason that our politics and media withers on the vine and it is for this reason our politics is so corroded. It is why they are held in contempt. The public are well aware that an essential element is missing from London politics - and to hear Jeremy Corbyn dragging up nostalgic cold war politics is actually a symptom of a cultural malaise. The government has gradually offloaded the duties of legislating to bodies most could barely even spell.

The reality is that we have a rapacious regulating machine over and above the EU, hardly anyone knows it's there or the scale of its involvement, and the public have no defence mechanism against it - not MPs, not MEPs, and as for our media... fuhgeddaboudit! It's time we pulled our heads out of the sand and got our government doing what it's supposed to do. Govern.