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Crashing out and what was what

In a week that managed to make politics exciting, we have Rees-Mogg slouching in Parliament because he couldn't be bothered keeping up his 18th century gent persona any more. We have Johnson losing votes faster than any Prime Minister in history. We have the Lords shrugging off a failed attempt at a filibuster in order to pass a bill making it illegal to crash out, and pass it unamended so it doesn't go back to the Commons, it goes straight for Royal assent on Monday.

Meanwhile Johnson is always one for evocative language. He calls the current bill a "Surrender bill" and is currently framing the next election in the context of "Parliament vs People", which doesn't make any sense at all coming from the titular head of Parliament, unless he plans to use an election win as a mandate to ignore Parliament and do what he wants?
Anyway, he of the gibberish reactionary soundbites declared that he would rather lie dead in a ditch than ask the EU for an extension. Given that an MP has already died over the cause of misplaced British nationalism, he might be advised not to give anybody ideas.

There's more. The ever-delightful failure of a leader Corbyn, who has asked for a General Election as his response to pretty much everything in these last days weeks months gets the chance to vote for an early General Election, and... yeah... he says NO. Huh?

Of course, given that Johnson kicked out all of the MPs who voted against him (there's British Democracy in action for you), including the oldest serving MP and Churchill's grandson, his majority of zero (somebody got up and defected to the Lib Dems) is now something like -21. Wait, Johnson's brother threw in the towel, so maybe it's -22? Isn't a General Election supposed to be automatic if the government cannot form a majority within two weeks? Probably nobody is pointing this out because it's the few Brexit Party MPs who are eager to get in on the action. Still, as it stands, Johnson can drop the Irish border right in the middle of the North Sea as the DUP no longer has any influence on the government.

Meanwhile... incredibly we're not done yet... we have appeals pending on rejected court cases over the proroging of Parliament. It's an interesting situation - there isn't really a law to turn to regarding shutting down Parliament, and the PM's lawyers are (currently successfully) arguing that it's a matter for Parliament, not for the law. But... perhaps there should be a law (or the start of a precedent) when the shutdown is intended to prevent Parliament being able to perform its function. This act is deliberately interfering with normal Parliamentary procedure. Of course, if the no-crash-out bill is passed into law that shakes things up. Sadly, a number of politicians do not trust Johnson, so they're in talks with the EU to sound out possible extension options, to lay the way for preparing legal cases when Johnson decides to ignore the no-crash-out law. Yes, we are in a situation where the politicians fully anticipate the executive thinking he is above the law. There's a word for that, and it isn't "democracy".

 

I gave up trying to figure out what the hell is going on long ago.

So, in a nod to the likes of the Express and Telegraph trying to con their readers into thinking that a no-deal Brexit was always on the cards, that it's really the best way forward; and the likes of the far right Tory idiots currently in power still bleating on about "delivering what the people voted for" given that it's likely that nobody really knew exactly what they were voting for (I can say that with certainty as three years down the line Parliament still doesn't really know besides some wishy-washy unicorn hunting and boisterous threats)... I thought it might be interesting to look at the Leave.EU website, the Aaron Banks creation that failed to be selected as the official Leave campaign, perhaps because there was too much bull?

Today, they're on about "Deselect the Tory traitors" because clearly they are happy with the PM telling everybody what to do and all the MPs blindly following - leading to the obvious question that if this is how it goes, what's the point of having MPs? Just call Johnson a dictator and fire everybody else.
Well, it may come to that... But something obvious is that the Leave.EU website changed completely following Brexit winning the referendum in 2016.

If only it was easy to erase history and come up with a new narrative... Let's look back into the past. Specifically the 19th of May 2016, because that's a nice sounding date.

Our first place to visit is the FAQ. This is where we'll find condensed answers to questions.

  • I'm an EU citizen. Will I be deported if we leave the EU?
    Absolutely not! Think of the upheaval and inconvenience caused if the UK and EU nations suggested this idea - any proposal such as this would be wholly illogical and extremely unpopular. [...] Any restriction of free movement would not be implemented retrospectively. [...]
These words might sound nice, but they don't match up the reality of Settled Status, with people who have lived in the UK all of their lives being told they cannot demonstrate sufficient ties to the UK. It's as if Windrush was a mere speedbump in the Home Office's ambitions of hating all foreigners equally.

  • But hasn't the EU brought peace to Europe? Why would we jeopardise that by leaving?
    First: why would any European country want to go to war, what could be achieved without dreadful loss?
It's a valid point, but one could have asked the exact same thing when The War to End All Wars was followed twenty one years later by an even more horrific war. It's the scope of destruction and death of these events that is the driving force behind the desire to see the EU succeed. Because WW3? With today's technology, it would be unthinkable.
More recently, the Yugoslav state was broken up by war between roughly 1991 to 2001. That's after my childhood, a war in Europe.
In this decade? The Yemeni Crisis, the Syrian Civil War, Somalia, the Caliphate, Boko Haram, Libyan and Sudanese Civil Wars, Arab Dawn, and Hong Kong.
It's all too easy for people to turn to violence. Ever since the referendum, violence towards foreigners has shot up in England. How long until this kicks off into a full on riot? When one side of the electorate considers they just got royally screwed by the other side, perhaps? And when does a riot become a conflict? A civil war?
They point out that NATO protects countries by making it clear that if one country is attacked, their NATO allies will respond. Of course, it's a disengenious answer as what happens if one NATO member decides to attack another? Does everybody else get to pick sides?
Carrying on:
  • Furthermore, modern conflicts are underlined by deep ideological and cultural differences.
Just like Brexit then, huh?
  • Even today, 22 European countries are not in the EU, they are and not fighting one another either.
Conveniently forgetting that it was probably half that number until Yugoslavia fell apart after the EU was created; also forgetting that the Good Friday Agreement brought peace to the two parts of Ireland a mere twenty years ago; also after the EU was created in 1993.
Yes. Technically the United Kingdom was involved in an armed conflict with its direct neighbour after the creation of the EU, so that point above is what exactly?

  • Pursuing any other procedure other than the formal one, is likely to tarnish Britain's world class reputation in international diplomacy.
I'm laughing so hard there's a growing puddle under my chair. I bet when this was written in 2015-2016, they had no idea of how completely the United Kingdom would jettison its reputation. The country is now a world class demonstration of a failed government, at literally all levels of functioning, leading us to the situation where not only is the Prime Minister apparently happy to threaten simply walking away and crashing out without any agreement in place with the EU, or evenan agreement with his own government to permit walking away. Not only that, as if it wasn't enough already, a number of ministers anticipate him simply ignoring the law and trying to push a crash out anyway, based upon some tenuous mandate of "the will of the people".

  • In the event that the UK triggers Article 50 it can make provisions for an extension of the negotiation period so long as the other 28 countries agree.
Let's see. There are currently 28 EU member states. Minus the UK. Leaves how many? Duh.

  • And there is good reason to be confident that two years will be sufficient.
Yes, wasn't it David Davis who said it would be the easiest negotiation in history?

  • Free trade agreements are often lengthy because each negotiating partner is preoccupied with the 'fear of the unknown' - of the weaker parts of their economy being exposed to more robust competition. As a consequence they barter with the other nations in a bid to either ringfence these weaker sectors from the agreement or impose quotas to protect them. Naturally, this slows down the negotiation. There is no such unknown in a Brexit context, because these economies are already exposed to one another. And even if the two year period proves insufficient, the fact remains, as a net importer from the EU and the world's fifth biggest economy, each of the other EU nations will be motivated to secure a comprehensive deal, a strong footing if an extension of the negotiating period becomes necessary.
I quoted that in its entirety to give it context.
I believe the reasons that trade negotiations are slow is because both sides have an idea of what they want, and there's a lot of back and forth in order to find some common ground that is acceptable to everybody. A case in point being the recent government suggestion that a cool trade deal can be arranged with the United States to ship over Scottish beef, but no thanks, we don't want chlorinated chicken in return. Well, can you see America saying "yeah, no probs"? I can see America, if they even consider it worth bothering replying to (Mike Pence might be trying his hardest to meddle in British politics, but it's worth remembering "America First"), so it may be returned phrased as "if you accept our lousy chicken, we'll consider importing your beef". Remember one country has a population of ~66 million, while the other ~327 million; and a GDP of about $40,000 per capita versus nearly $60,000 per capita. So which country do you think is going to have the negotiating power here? The UK needs to send its products somewhere. New markets don't need to accept any of it, it needs to be trading this for that. And now you can see why trade agreements take time.
But leaving the EU isn't a simple bilateral trade agreement. It's trying to unwind decades of agreements and interworking. Think how many foreign companies run the trains, buses, electricity, core infrastructure, and so on. Until 2016 when the referendum was held, it was thought ridiculous that the UK would choose to leave. Many countries have invested in the UK, both European and from further afar (using the UK as an easier access to the EU market than, say, France or Germany).
Also worth pointing out that what pushes the UK to be the world's fifth largest economy is the extensive services sector, that accounts for around 75% of GDP. The services sector is directly threatened by Brexit, and isn't protected by WTO trade rules. For the record, the remaining 25% is largely comprised of manufacturing and agriculture. Manufacturing will take a hit as a lot is pan-European, and agriculture is notable as around 60% of the UK's food needs are grown in the country but - but - it employs less than two percent of the labour force.
I'm sure you are smart enough to read between the lines at how badly the economy could suffer from an orderly Brexit, never mind the insanity of crashing out.

  • Won't prices in the shops go up if we leave the EU?
    No. It is estimated that the EU's Common Agricultural Policy actually increases food prices by up to 17%.
And, yet, prices went up following the referendum as the pound sterling nosedived. The first casulaties were ex-pat pensioners and EU residents with UK income because near-instantly between a quarter and a third was wiped off of their income. Like, overnight. Sterling suffered the biggest one-day drop since free-floating exchange rates were created in the 1970s.
This slowly trickled into the mainstream, that it was now cheaper for overseas people to buy things in the UK (my website registration cost me a third less), but correspondingly imports cost more when bought with sterling. Companies spread prices around to offset costs, but ultimately companies need to turn a profit, so prices of some things have risen.
And Brexit still hasn't happened yet.

  • Economist Patrick Minford is clear that our cost of living will fall by 8% after a vote to leave.
Meanwhile, in reality, the UK experienced the sharpest growth slowdown of all of the OECD countries. Global growth has outperformed pre-referendum speculations, but UK growth changed from being one of the best performing G7 countries (4.9% in 2015) to one of the worst performers (-0.1% in 2017). The UK has traditionally worked hard at employment, but this got blown away by higher inflation and stagnant pay. Put into context, the difference between forecast and reality is that household incomes are around £1,500 to £2,000 worse off than they should be. And, again, Brexit hasn't actually happened yet.

Another thing to keep in mind is that British citizens are throwing caution to the wind and spending more than they earn. Price rises have not been met by wage increases, so they are borrowing more and saving less, moving into net deficit. Should Brexit be ultimately cancelled, it is possible that the economy will start to pick itself up. However should all hell break loose at a crash-out, the economy will be in for a greater shock than just a recession.
As if household saving and spending isn't bad enough, overall business investment has barely grown since the referendum. Companies are taking a long think prior to committing to future plans, and overseas investors are increasingly alarmed by the behaviour of the government.
To put this into numbers, prior to the referendum happening, the Bank of England expected business investment to be around 13% in the period of 2016-2018. Instead it actually grew at 2%, and that number is shrinking.

  • One member of the WTO cannot charge duties (import taxes) on the other's exports at a higher rate than it does to another WTO member - and most of the world's economies are in the WTO. The EU's weighted average WTO import duty is just 1%, one of the lowest in the world. If the EU attempted to impose heavier duties it would receive a quick slap down from the WTO's courts, heavy penalties would be applied.
There are a number of issues regarding WTO trading. The first is the legal aspect. Neither a citizen nor a company has any access at all to WTO dispute resolution. Only member states can take action against other member states. There is no mechanism for damages, or a remedy for disputed action. Instead, the WTO can recommend that countries change their behaviour. Of course, countries can choose to ignore the WTO and carry on. You'll see this playing out between America and China.
Secondly, while WTO rules do mean that you cannot favour one nation over another and should charge the same prices to both, it does allow for free trade agreements where specific countries can provide each other with more favourable rates. The EU has developed specific favourable agreements with countries such as Canada, Japan, South Korea, etc.
The idea of "falling back on WTO" means that without favourable agreements, it will need to revert to WTO terms, as well as losing access to existing free trade agreements set up by the EU. While trading on WTO rules is a default baseline, nobody does it. Well, I think North Korea might, but most other countries of the world have initiated separate agreements with those who they trade. India and China, for example, with their neighbours.
But it gets more complicated. External countries that have trade deals with the EU have quotas that are traded. Most of these quotas are pan-European, so New Zealand sends a quarter of a million tonnes of lamb to the EU and it gets spread around to all who wish to source the meat. What happens when the UK leaves? It doesn't get access to the EU lamb any more. Does it conduct a deal with New Zealand (which will be taxed under WTO as the EU has an agreement for trade) or does it try to pick up any left overs from the EU? Now multiply this by, well, everything and you can see the scope of the problem here.

But, wait, can't we just roll over existing trade agreements to the UK? You'll have to come up with a convincing reason why the other member states would want to when it raises complications such as standards and accreditation (things that the UK doesn't want to have anything to do with any more) and that some agreements (such as the one with South Korea) have free trade on things made in the EU, which the UK will no longer be. So thinking about it, there are a sufficient number of issues regarding rolling over existing agreements that it's honestly unlikely to work in reality.

It's also worth pointing out that agreements between the US and the EU have failed because of a vast difference of opinion between such topics as food safety, dispute resolution between companies and governments, and recent US agreements with neighbours Mexico and Canada include a clause forbidding entering into trade agreements with China; however as one of the fastest growing economies, it makes sense for the EU and the UK (in or out of the EU) to strike up trade agreements with China if possible.
To put it into context, the EU takes a cautionary approach to food additives. Things are permitted if they are shown to be safe. Accordingly there's a large number (about a thousand, I think) of additives that are not permitted.
The US, on the other hand, permits additives unless they can be demonstrated as being unsafe. There's something like twelve because there are any number of excuses to allow carcinogens in food. For example, one such is azodicarbonamide (a flour whitening agent) which is permitted by the FDA as "safe to consume in limited quantities" even though it has been shown to cause cancer in lab animals. The other common whitening agent, potassium bromate, is also considered a possible carcinogen. Requests to ban it have been refused by the FDA on the basis that it was in use prior to the 1958 Delaney amendment to ban potentially carcinogenic foods. Everything in use prior is considered to have prior approval and is thus not regulated as a food additive. The logic is astonishing, and it's difficult to imagine how the US and EU will ever agree with such different mindsets. Clearly the consumer comes first in the EU, while the corporation comes first in the US.
It's worth noting that if post-Brexit trade deals with the US involve lowering food standards, the cause célèbre may be the infamous chlorinated chickens, but there are many lurking gotchas.

It is disingenious to massage figures to give a tiny percentage. Their 1% quote is the "weighted average WTO import duty". Based upon what, exactly? Based upon counting import tariffs for non-WTO agreements? Based upon mushing everything together and seeing what comes out the end? Under WTO terms, there is no fixed "everything has this added". It varies by product. Some products have more than 25% added, mostly in the realm of agriculture. As for services, they make up the majority of British acivity and aren't even covered by WTO. There's an addition, called GATS, that covers services, but while it has the same lack of solidity as WTO, it also introduces the concept of quotas. In both cases, neither WTO nor GATS contain any obligation for the EU to grant market access to the UK, even operating under WTO terms.

Another idea touted is that the UK could just cancel all import duty and apply a zero tariff to everything. Well, under WTO rules if it does that for EU imports, it is obliged to offer the same to everybody else. It'll become a free-for-all and anything that resembles safety and certification will go out the window.

  • The vast majority of the world's nations trade with each other within the WTO system.
No, they don't. They trade with a variety of separate favourable agreements, falling back to WTO when there's nothing else.

  • I live in Spain - won't I lose my right to live in other EU countries?
    No. Your right to live in Spain is protected by the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties - these are known as 'acquired rights' and means that any rights you have relied upon under a pre-existing treaty will continue. This applies to living in other EU countries too!! This also goes for all EU nationals currently residing in the UK.
Unfortunately the privileges of being a European citizen are tied to citizenship. When one ceases to be an EU citizen, the rights associated with it fall away. The Vienna Convention does not help because the word "parties" in the convention refers to states, not individuals. Thus, it does not apply to citizens (on either side) following Brexit. A Lords Select Committee examined this issue and found that existing doctrine was unlikely to be useful. It will require individual agreements from each member state to permit citizen's rights to continue. Two countries (Germany and Italy) have granted rights to British ex-pats. The French government wants to have a favourable solution for Brits, but crucially requires that the UK reciprocates. That does not provide me with any confidence in the future as I don't trust the UK government.

 

There's only so much of that I can take, so let's turn now to the officially selected Leave campaign, the mouthful that is "voteleavetakecontrol.org". Jeez.

Here is a PDF of reasons why a person should vote leave (3.14MiB).

  • That £350M thing again
On the left of page two they repeat the lie that the EU costs "over £350 million a week". On the other side of the page, it says that's "almost £20 billion a year". Accordingly I make be one year of EU membership to be worth less than a third of an HS2 railway line. Bargain!
It's interesting that they say that it's half of the England schools budget. For comparison, in 2019, France is spending nearly €73 billion on education (statista.com). That's about £66 billion, a third again as much as the UK. Germany, according to goethe.de, spent 129.2 billion on education in 2016. Even Spain spends more on education (about 50 billion, 4.2% GDP).

  • The Euro is permanently on the brink of crisis - and we will be forced to pay to bail it out again
Funny how the Euro has survived the Irish monetary problem, the Italian one, the endless Greek problems, and still remains a fairly stable currency. You could argue that it's just Germany and France propping up the Euro, and whether that's true or not doesn't change that the Euro has remained fairly steady despite all of this.
Yes, the UK paid to help bail out Ireland and Portugal. Both countries left their bailout programmes, so the UK has not lost any money on them. In 2011, EU leaders agreed that the UK would not be liable for Eurozone bailouts because it isn't a Eurozone country. They established a new bailout fund from Eurozone funds to help if a Eurozone country needs to be bailed out again. In other words, no the UK doesn't have to pay "again". That's a blatant lie.

  • The EU will continue to grow (page 7)
Just below that, it lists the next five countries set to join the EU - Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey.
Albania, maybe. Ditto Macedonia. Montenegro (all 600,000 of them) maybe some time around 2025. Serbia, possible, expected around 2025 but that's a bit optimistic given the slowness of relations with Kosovo.
As for Turkey, this is another lie. Yes, it is true that Turkey has applied to be an EU member. It actually applied in 1987 (before the EU existed!). It took until 1999 before the EU even recognised it as a potential candidate. Things have pretty much run backwards since then. France and Germany blocked discussions in 2007, the problem with the Kurds, the Gezi Park protests, the behaviour of President Erdogan... plus the fact that an EU candidate needs to have peaceful relations with its neighbours, and there's that who Cyprus issue. In short, Turkey wants to join the EU but fails to qualify in numerous areas. European leaders and the European Parliament already feel that Turkey is not yet capable of following the expected European values. They are willing to enter into partnership arrangements with Turkey (as it is mutually beneficial), however there is very little hope of a chance of Turkey becoming a full EU member any time soon. So, yes, them joining is a lie. But it's 76 million Muslims to fear, all dead set on crashing their way through swathes of Europe to beat down the door at Britain's borders.
And, yes, sadly we know full well that it's because of Islam. Because the graphic on that page not only highlights Turkey with a big arrow pointing to the UK, it also mentions neighbours Syria and Iraq (both of which are also highlighted for some reason, because "Aaaargh! Muslims! Aaargh!").

  • We need to be able to hold our lawmakers to account (page 8)
Deeply ironic in highsight, isn't it?

  • Only 5% of British businesses export to the EU but 100% suffer the burden of EU red tape (page 9)
Notice the weasel words - only five percent of businesses export. As it happens, in 2018 that represented 46% of all UK exports, with 54% of imports coming from the EU.
A mere 5% is no big deal. About half, either way, is a big deal. So put a tick in the lie box here, because nobody cares how that 5% of companies will be affected when it adds up to a little under half of all exports.

 

I don't see anything in here about threatening, and maybe doing, a crash out Brexit. I don't see anything about throwing out the baby with the bathwater, but that's pretty much the current policy. And I don't see anything about "taking back control" that drops sole control into the hands of a megalomaniac with a long proven track record of making up bullshit.

He's now running the country...

...into the ground.

 

 

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