Brexit – Rules Are Made to be Broken

We have to accept free movement of labour to get access to the single market.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that over the past ten days. I’ve heard it so much that there’s no way it can’t be true. Right?


EU law, isn’t. It’s a series of guidelines that can, and are, discarded when convenient.

Germany exceeded their deficit limits in the early years of the Euro – illegal? Sure. Any action taken? Against Germany, in the Euro? Come on. Be serious.

Bailouts are specifically forbidden under the Lisbon Treaty. But Greece, Portugal, Ireland, and Spain are all in trouble. Well, damn the law. The Euro is more important than the law.

1. The Union shall not be liable for or assume the commitments of central governments, regional, local or other public authorities, other bodies governed by public law, or public undertakings of any Member State, without prejudice to mutual financial guarantees for the joint execution of a specific project. A Member State shall not be liable for or assume the commitments of central governments, regional, local or other public authorities, other bodies governed by public law, or public undertakings of another Member State, without prejudice to mutual financial guarantees for the joint execution of a specific project. – Article 125, Lisbon Treaty

Politics trumps law every time in the EU. It’s one of the main reasons I voted to leave – because the rule of law, isn’t.

So, will politics – the armed wing of economics – trump the law when it comes to negotiating the UK’s exit from the EU? Most likely.

The EU will need some paper wins to prove they weren’t walked all over. The UK will be made an example of in a very public but very limited way.

The UK is (depending on measure) the country with the highest military spending in the EU. We, along with France, hold a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, we are one of two nuclear powers in the EU. We have one of the two blue water navies in the EU and are (from 2020) able to project power from the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers. We are Atlanticist in  a way that no other EU country is. The UK anchors the USA in NATO, checking Russian aggression. Is NATO less relevant now than it was 30 years ago? Yes – but Ukraine proves that Russia is still a strategic threat. NATO counters that threat. Poland, Finland, Latvia and Lithuania all share a land border with Russia. Without an economically strong UK, able to fund our NATO commitments, the USA will continue to see Europe as not pulling its weight. Four EU countries, Poland especially, that have a strong incentive to see a deal done for the UK.

The UK has a colossal trade deficit with the EU – primarily with France and Germany. The German CBI went on the record before the referendum saying (correctly) that free trade was in the interest of all parties. The French business lobby is making more noises to the same effect. The EU attempting to punish the City can lead to reciprocal punishments to the French and German car industries. A beggar thy neighbour policy would hurt everyone. So if the EU puts down their gun, the UK puts down its gun.

The EU has a strategic and economic interest in keeping the UK engaged. Keeping the UK engaged on the continent will require a deal that allows both sides to save face but both sides to prosper. The laws… rules… guidelines can, and will, be damned for political expediency.


Traitors in Our Midst

I am reliably informed that if we were to see a Remainer as our next PM they would instantly laugh at the people who voted to leave, refuse to ever implement Article 50 and demand Jean-Claude Juncker immediately travel to the UK to take his place as our rightful lord.

Of course this is ridiculous. Every candidate for the leadership of the conservative party has said they will respect the will of the voters and leave the EU. There will undoubtedly be different flavours of leaving shown by the nominees from EEA (including Free Movement) to a WTO deal with the EU. All are however committed to us leaving the EU. There is no conspiracy. Theresa May will bring us out of the EU, as will Andrea Leadsom, as will Stephen Crabb and Michael Gove. Even Disgraced former Cabinet Minister Liam Fox would have us leave the EU.

Whatever the result I trust the next PM to lead us out of the EU according to their platform, but each platform will be for us to leave the EU. It is ridiculous to say that because Crabb and May were on the Remain side of the campaign they would subvert the will of the people and keep us in the EU.

Politicians are by and large decent people. We should remember that.

There is also an important point to make that the votes of the 48% do matter despite being on the losing side. A deal to take us out of the EU must take into account those who voted to remain. They did so for decent reasons. They are just as patriotic and decent as people who voted to leave. Despite being on the losing side their votes still count. They are still part of the UK. They deserve the same representation that I, as a leave voter, receive.

That shouldn’t be something which needs to be said.

Conservative Leadership – Kieran

So, it seems my brothers have pipped me to the post.

Unlike Connor I will not be supporting Andrea Leadsom. Unlike Liam I know who I would prefer as leader.

I’ll deal with the candidates in increasing order of preference.

Liam Fox – Disgraced former Cabinet Minister

Liam Fox, disgraced former Cabinet Minster, who had to resign in disgrace following the controversy over the financial relationship with Adam Werritty can be dismissed straight away. Yes, he’s a Brexiteer. Yes, he has sound conservative credentials. But being forced to resign in disgrace is hardly what is needed for the next Prime Minister.

Andrea Leadsom

I know relatively little about Mrs Leadsom. She is relatively inexperienced and has never held a cabinet level post. What really puts me off supporting her is the apparent support from Aaron Banks – the odious Mr Banks who is such a supporter of Farage’s UKIP needs to be kept far, far away from the levers of power. Without denouncing Banks and refusing all support she cannot be fit to become Prime Minister.

Theresa May

Theresa May is a formidable politician. She has survived at the Home Office for six long years with few memorable scandals. She has been on the frontline of Tory politics since the early 2000s. The Home Office normally eats Secretaries of State for breakfast – the 13 years of Labour government gave us six. Surviving in this post indicates she is able. She supported the Remain side during the referendum yet I am sure would be a strong negotiator, able to broker an excellent deal for the UK. However, the authoritarian bills emanating from the Home Office, particularly in the realm of internet law indicate a flavour of conservative politics that I cannot support. I believe Mrs May will make it onto the ballot for members but unless disgraced former Cabinet Minister Liam Fox or Andrea Leadsom are on the ballot I will not vote for Mrs May.

Stephen Crabb

The Crabbid ticket is interesting. Both are relatively untested, less so than Cameron and Osborne when they lead the Conservatives from 2005 onwards yet these are times when being a tested politician is more important than ever. I place Stephen Crabb so high on the list because of his likely ability to save the union (I do not believe the union is in as much danger as many others but it is a risk). Despite being a remainer I believe he would enact the will of the people without destroying the economy. With a strong negotiating team on his side he would do well as PM.

Michael Gove

The Gover – as he was called by his erstwhile comrade Boris Johnson – would be my favourite candidate for PM. His reforming zeal and thick skin make him ideal to continue the reforms from the Cameroon era. The One Nation conservatism may not be obvious but with his reforms to the education system applied to prison system we’re likely to see a reduction in recidivism and a decrease in the cost of crime to the state. A Gove Premiership with reforms to the tax code, to the NHS, to every aspect of the British state along with renegotiating our relationship with the EU could truly revitalise the UK in a way that no other could.

David Cameron

My ideal candidate would be the PM we already have – yes, he advocated to remain, yes, he did so with gusto. But Cameron is a patriot who recognises the will of the people and would work hard to develop the best possible deal for the UK. After six years of service he has decided this loss means he cannot serve any longer. I disagree but fair enough. He’s earned a break. However, any candidate for the Leadership should remember just how good a leader Cameron was and is. Holding the party together, winning a majority. He has served well and built relationships with foreign leaders. He should be a key part of the negotiation team with our partners in Europe.


Note that it’s only Boris – stabbed in the front, back, sides by Gove his political career is seemingly at an end but cannot be written off. I do not believe Boris is fit to lead. A series of entertaining columns does not a PM make. With a good team he could have been a capable leader – but this is not the time for a clown.

EURef – Calm Down

One week on from the end of the world and the world is still somehow turning.

The FTSE 250 is admittedly down 8% on last week and has been among the, if not the worst performing asset globally over that time period. The pound has fallen to the low 30s against the dollar and the Euro is trading at parity in some places.

The French economy has overtaken us as the fifth largest in the world and the EU seem to be playing hardball on negotiations, which haven’t even started yet. The picture is not rosy.

And yet, and yet – the most likely outcome for the UK remains a Norway style deal – something if, when taking into account the 48% who voted to remain and the 52% who voted to leave, would get a very high level of support. We will likely have to trade some financial passporting and definitely the Euro denominated trading in turn for restrictions on migration. We will also have to contribute to the EU budget. But we will be outside the EU.

We will no longer need to fund the CAP – New Zealand abolished agriculture subsidies and saw the farming sector boom. We will be able to control the fisheries in our waters, we will never join the Euro and will be able to determine our policy in myriad other ways.

We will be able to sign our own free trade agreements. This is the key.

I’m a classic liberal. I believe in the primacy of the markets. So to my mind we should unilaterally abolish all tariffs, decreasing cost to consumers and industry in the UK whilst building goodwill with other countries. This would only reduce costs by around 3% – non-tariff barriers remain the real hindrance to trade but this would be a good signal. Tarrifs on agricultural products remain considerably higher – unilaterally abolishing these would grant the triple benefit of reducing UK food costs, improving economies in Africa and decreasing the need for the UK aid budget through trade.

We should aim to have in place before we leave the EU a free trade deal with as many countries as possible. Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Singapore are all obvious first ports of call where the likelihood of a true free trade agreement is high. We can replace the lost GDP from the services, which we will inevitably lose, with increased trade with the rest of the world. A free trade agreement with the USA will likely take longer to negotiate but would be in place before TTIP was ever ratified.

We remain the third largest contributor to NATO, we remain a P5 member of the UN Security Council, a member of the G8 and G20. A member of the Council of Europe, the IMF, the World Bank. We remain the centre of the Commonwealth which could form a new loose free trade area. English is still the most widely spoken international language in the world. The world still revolves around GMT – the easiest way to trade with Asia if you’re based in the US is to go through London for the strong legal system, the timezone, the language. London remains a vibrant, international city.

The short-term is a blip. The short term is always more volatile than the long-term. Many economists think we’re likely to enter recession over the coming year. However, the markets will settle down over a period of weeks. Over a six-month timeframe our deal with the EU will become clearer, pending elections in Germany, France and the Netherlands. Over a one year view we will be able to see how initial efforts at external trade deals are going. Over a ten-year view the impact of our shaking off the shackles of the EU will be clear as our growth rate continues to outstrip the EU.

We remain a vibrant economy with a huge deal going for us. The end is not nigh.



IndyRef2 – Does the SNP have a mandate?

Scotland voted to remain in the EU. On a turnout of 67.2%, higher only than the turnout in Northern Ireland, 1.7M voters chose to remain,1M chose to leave.

The SNP claim to have a mandate to hold a second referendum (leaving aside that Holyrood is not empowered to call referenda) – do they?

Leaving the EU was mentioned as a potential trigger in the SNP manifesto. A manifesto that Scotland partially rejected, see SNP minority government, likely because of continuing talk of a second referendum.

In their manifesto they spoke of a ‘significant and material change’ – until the circumstances of the deal between the UK and the EU are known the significance of the changes is unknowable.

The Scottish Greens would likely vote for a second referendum. Yet their manifesto says “a referendum should be the will of the people, and not by calculations of party political advantage” indeed.

Labour ruled out supporting a second referendum for the lifetime of the parliament, despite noises since Friday about supporting one.

So, likely there is a mandate for a second independence referendum – but only after the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU are known.