Tuesday, 7 November 2017

A Tribute to the Services Dead

I am not brave enough to serve in the services and I am in awe and humbled that people do and sometimes risk their lives in doing so. I usually make a point of watching the Service of Remembrance at the Albert Hall and recording and then watching the ceremony from the Cenotaph in London on Remembrance Sunday. 

It is my opinion that it is to the eternal shame of our politicians that none of them seemed to go to Royal Wootton Bassett for the repatriation of the military dead (who went to die on their orders) that passed through there on their way from RAF Lyneham to John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. 

It is even worse that when RAF Lyneham closed the Government ensured that the repatriated dead were sent to John Radcliffe Hospital via a 'back door' (the Britannia Gate) from RAF Brize Norton. Anyone with any doubt should read this by Peter Hitchens (http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2013/09/thoughts-on-repatriation-and-how-the-government-really-views-the-deaths-of-soldiers.html):
‘HERE'S the truth about the Government's decision to route the hearses of soldiers killed in its various stupid wars away from any of the nation's High Streets. 
This comes into effect very soon, when the bodies of the dead start to arrive at RAF Brize Norton, next to the Oxfordshire town of Carterton. 
Junior Defence Minister Andrew Robathan stumbled a bit trying to deal with this in Parliament on Monday. 
First, he disclosed that the back gate of the RAF base, through which the hearses will pass, is to be renamed the Britannia Gate. Who thinks of these things? The Downing Street cat? Were I to rename the back door of my house the Britannia Door, it would still be the back door. 
Then he said that the route through Carterton was unsuitable for corteges because it has speed bumps. So does the bypass route that the processions will actually take, as Mr Robathan ought to know. 
He added that Carterton's streets were 'very narrow'. I doubt that they are narrower than those of Wootton Bassett, and plan to check them myself, unless anyone has measurements to hand. 
But he was rescued from his confusion by a fellow Unconservative, the North Wiltshire MP James Gray. Mr Gray asked: 'Does the Minister agree that it might not be possible, nor indeed quite right, to seek to replicate the Wootton Bassett effect elsewhere, as that was a chapter in our history? I am not sure we necessarily want to see it repeated elsewhere.' 
Mr Robathan eagerly responded, saying Mr Gray had made 'a very good point'. Really? What was so good about it? I wonder who Mr Gray means when he says that 'we' do not want to see Wootton Bassett's spontaneous, unofficial, genuine expression of respect for courage, discipline and loyalty to be repeated. He certainly doesn't speak for me.’

If you look at this piece of film from The Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance 2015 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfhrDpErodY) and watch from 44 minutes 46 to 49 minutes 16 to be greatly moved by this segment on the death of service personnel and the loss of the families too.

For those who died at sea, the Royal and Merchant Navies there is often no grave, just the deep of the sea. I found this poem by Eileen Mahoney and think it is a wonderful dedication to them: http://www.iwvpa.net/mahoneye/index.php
In ocean wastes no poppies blow,
No crosses stand in ordered row,
Their young hearts sleep... 
beneath the wave...
The spirited, the good, the brave,
But stars a constant vigil keep,
For them who lie beneath the deep.

There is this piece from Semi-Partisan politics (https://semipartisansam.com/2017/10/20/the-best-one-percent/) about statements made in the United States and the first 15 minutes of this film deserves to be (and is just) 'must see' viewing.
Most Americans don’t know what happens when we lose one of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, our Coast Guardsmen in combat. So let me tell you what happens: Their buddies wrap them up in whatever passes as a shroud, puts them on a helicopter as a routine, and sends them home. Their first stop along the way is when they’re packed in ice, typically at the airhead. And then they’re flown to, usually, Europe where they’re then packed in ice again and flown to Dover Air Force Base, where Dover takes care of the remains, embalms them, meticulously dresses them in their uniform with the medals that they’ve earned, the emblems of their service, and then puts them on another airplane linked up with a casualty officer escort that takes them home.
Young men and women volunteer for the armed services and of course they take the risks that come with that decision. They must serve wherever the elected Government (elected by the electorate) sends them. Some will die doing what they have been told to do. 

In my view, whatever we think of the politicians and political decisions made in sending service personnel to conflict and war zones, it is my duty (yes duty) to remember that they died for the cause of the United Kingdom at that particular moment 
O valiant hearts who to your glory came 
Through dust of conflict and through battle flame; 
Tranquil you lie, your knightly virtue proved, 
Your memory hallowed in the land you loved.

Of Course I respect those who will not or do not want to wear a poppy. There should be no media or popular clatter against the choice of people like John Snow. That's the point really. Their personal freedom of choice was partly earned by those that died in order to obtain and defend it.

I went to visit the battlefields of the Ypres salient this year. Standing under the Menin gate and listening to the last post being sounded surrounded by the names of the dead with no known grave is deeply moving. Swallowed by the mud.
They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old. 
Age shall not weary them; nor the years' condemn. 
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, 
we WILL remember them

Saturday, 28 October 2017

The European Union Perspective

It seems to me that this blog and other commentators have looked at Brexit entirely from a United Kingdom perspective. Take a quick look at this from the perspective of the remaining members of the European Union - the EU27.

Let us look at Southern Ireland. It has a great deal of traffic plying from Dublin to Liverpool and Dublin to Holyhead. This week there were two items of interest with regard to Dublin port. 

The first is that the Irish State has started dredging Dublin Bay (https://afloat.ie/port-news/dublin-port/item/37526-dredging-in-dublin-port-begins-with-material-dumped-in-dublin-bay) and the second is the introduction of the world's "largest Ro-Ro Ferry" (https://afloat.ie/port-news/dublin-port/item/37536-world-s-largest-ro-ro-ferry-to-be-introduced-on-dublin-routes-linking-mainland-europe) which will:
make a maiden call this week to Dublin Port from Zeebrugge and is to be followed with an introduction on the Rotterdam route
The obvious reason for doing this is so that Ireland's goods and animal exports can avoid the island of Great Britain and ply from Dublin Port to Belgium (Zeebrugge) and Holland (Rotterdam). If the French berthing points are deep enough expect to see direct routes from Dublin to France. 

This will directly affect the ports of Holyhead and Liverpool. It would seem unlikely that unemployment would not be caused in Holyhead by such action. It is surprising that the Welsh Assembly and its leader Carwyn Jones has not picked this up.

With regard to Border Inspection Posts or Points (BIP), there are three in Southern Ireland: Dublin Port, Dublin Airport and Shannon Airport. For the purposes of this blog, in France there is Brest, Dunkirk and Le Havre. In Belgium there is Ostende and Zeebrugge. In Holland there is Rotterdam. (https://ec.europa.eu/food/animals/vet-border-control/bip-contacts_en) 

Note that Calais is not a BIP and neither is Dover.

Dunkirk has recently been extended and can cope with 5000 consignments a year. Nowhere near enough for the volume of traffic that will hit it in the event of a No Deal World Trade Organisation (WTO) only Brexit. Last time I travelled with Eurotunnel there was a plaque on the side of the train that said:
"Via the Channel Tunnel. Each year, Eurotunnel carries 1,600,000 trucks to and from the UK with a total trade of £91 billion"

Don't forget that the European Union is not leaving the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom is leaving the European Union.

Why should Ireland, France, Belgium or Holland expand their Border Inspection Posts to ameliorate the fact the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union? Why should any of these four countries employ more border force personnel or BIP personnel or Veterinary Surgeons because we are leaving? If you were a member of the Government of any of these states wouldn't you say:
"Look, you are leaving and need more BIP capacity, you are going to have to pay for it and their staff, salary and pensions."
I know I would be tempted to do so if I were them. 

Returning to Ireland, there is the vexed question of the Irish Border.  Whilst the Island of Ireland is not united the Irish Border CANNOT be ignored. It is 300 miles long. It undulates and crosses farms leaving some fields in the North and some in the South. The border posts have gone. I saw a tweet where it was stated that one post was now a boxing gym.

The point being that the Irish border is the only land border between the United Kingdom and the European Union. If Mrs May is true to her word, Antrim will not be in the European Single Market whilst Dublin will be. To ensure the integrity of the single market, the border will have to be enforced.
In terms of scale, 91,000 Irish companies trade with the UK. After Brexit, their customs declarations will create an eight-fold increase in paperwork volume. There will be special permits, extra investment, more paperwork and potential delays. Ports and airports will need extra infrastructure, such as temporary storage facilities for customs clearance. The Revenue itself will need a big increase in staffing levels. (http://www.eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=86630) 

The European Union has also got its own agenda to consider. Under the Treaty of Rome it is:
"DETERMINED to establish the foundations of an ever closer union among the European peoples"
https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Treaty_establishing_the_European_Economic_Community and that is what it is intending to do. There has been in the press discussion of a new treaty amongst the Euro States and amongst the wider (European) Union having a single Finance Minister and diluting still further national states veto and increasing the use of Qualified Majority Voting (QMV). There is even discussion of a European Union Army. Why wouldn't they? 

The European Union is determined to retain the integrity of the European Single Market of which it is a part with Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein and it will not allow the United Kingdom to become an ad hoc member whilst not following the rules of that market.

There are those who say that the United Kingdom complies with all the rules now so it will continue to do that after it leaves. That's the point though. The United Kingdom is leaving.

The United Kingdom leaves and the European Regulatory Regime ceases when we leave because we are not a member so AFTER we leave the European Union can only ensure we obey the Regulatory Regime (the rules) of the market if we do the administration i.e. the paperwork.

No Deal means a WTO regime as some politicians have said. If the United Kingdom has Memorandums of Understanding (MOU's) or Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRA's) or Free Trade Agreements (FTA's) that is NOT a WTO only regime. That's a deal or deals.

After the United Kingdom leaves under a No Deal WTO only regime it will have to allow imports of goods which it would not have allowed if it were in the European Single Market and so the European Union will want to ensure that its market is not undermined by such goods entering the market.

I do not think this is unreasonable. I am a leave voter remember. I just think that's logical. There will be barriers to Trade.

If we leave under a No Deal WTO only regime then access to databases and interfaces will cease. United Kingdom driving licences will no longer be recognised. This will impact on all who drive on the continent on holiday or on business. 

All this because the Utterly Useless Conservative Government led by 'President' Theresa May insists that the United Kingdom must leave the European Single Market. As Faisal Islam tweeted:
... the need for this call rather goes to illustrate that being in the Single Market is not the same as being in the EU
The United Kingdom should apply for EFTA membership. Many of the above issues would be ameliorated if we did. We would stay in the European Single Market for a start. Iceland wants us to join. Norway wants us to join, the President of the EFTA court wants us to join, Michel Barnier has publicly suggested it. The European Union has even said that we can invoke Article 112 of the EEA Treaty if we do. Let's do it.

No Deal is NOT a credible option. 

Saturday, 21 October 2017

The Queen

Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, Her Majesty The Queen.

I am not a fan of memorial services to be honest. I think that you should tell people how wonderful they are whilst they are here to hear it. A friend of mine recently left the area and at a farewell lunch I told him what a good friend he had been.

Since it is highly unlikely that I will ever have lunch with The Queen it seems that the only way of lauding her is through the impersonal (but very personal) blog.

The Queen has recently said that she will watch the Remembrance Sunday parade from the Foreign Office building and that the Prince of Wales will lay her wreath as well as his own.

It is sad that this decision has been made but The Queen is 91 and an age when most would be well retired or no longer with us so it is understandable.

"I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and to our great imperial family to which we all belong."
It is quite an achievement for anyone to have lived up to a pledge made whilst young for 70 years but the fact is that The Queen has done so and without complaint. It would be hell in my view to live under the spotlight all the time and whilst it would be fun to have people run around after you for a week I think it would soon pale.

The Queen is the only monarch anyone under 65 has known and she has fulfilled her role in an exemplary way in my view. Certainly I will not live to see any other monarch reign for 65 years.

It is difficult to explain exactly what it is that she represents. All I can say is that she represents to me at least Country and feelings of patriotism and sometimes emotion. None of us is irreplaceable but I think I would echo what Kenneth Baker said about another female leader
We shall not see her like again

 Perhaps this best describes my feelings 
Thy choicest gifts in store 
On her be pleased to pour 
long may she reign. 
May she defend our laws
and ever give us cause
to sing with heart and voice
God Save The Queen

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

No Deal is NOT a credible option (A political reboot)

No Deal is NOT a credible option

It seems quite clear to me that this Utterly Useless Conservative Government is, despite all warnings and recommendations, going to go for 'No Deal' - a Hard Brexit. In the view of many this would be a disaster. 

Richard North of EUReferendum has posted many articles of which this is an example: (http://www.eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=86636) Pete North (http://peterjnorth.blogspot.co.uk/2017/10/brexit-stupidity-squared.html), 
Oliver Norgrove (http://www.norgroveblog.co.uk/2017/09/the-wto-threat-is-bee-sting.html) and many on Twitter are queuing up with warnings. I have posted a few myself: 

The principal reason for this is that the Westminster 'Village', the SW1A bubble if you like only speak and listen to each other. It seem difficult if not impossible for them to break the mould. I include in this group the BBC and its commentators such as Laura Kuenssberg and Andrew Neil. When they speak to the public, we seem to be used as filler between self reverential pieces to camera.

We need to break this and reboot our politics. A good place to start would be The Harrogate Agenda
Our six demands... 
1. Recognition of our sovereignty: 
The peoples of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland comprise the ultimate authority of their nations and are the source of all political power. That fact shall be recognised by the Crown and the Governments of our nations, and our Parliaments and Assemblies 
2. Real local democracy: 
The foundation of our democracy shall be the counties (or other local units as may be defined), which shall become constitutional bodies exercising under the control of their peoples all powers of legislation, taxation and administration not specifically granted by the people to the national government; 
3. Separation of powers: 
The executive shall be separated from the legislature. To that effect, prime ministers shall be elected by popular vote; they shall appoint their own ministers, with the approval of parliament, to assist in the exercise of such powers as may be granted to them by the sovereign people of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland; no prime ministers or their ministers shall be members of parliament or any legislative assembly; 
4. The people’s consent: 
No law, treaty or government decision shall take effect without the consent of the majority of the people, by positive vote if so demanded, and that none shall continue to have effect when that consent is withdrawn by the majority of the people; 
5. No taxation or spending without consent 
No tax, charge or levy shall be imposed, nor any public spending authorised, nor any sum borrowed by any national or local government except with the express approval the majority of the people, renewed annually on presentation of a budget which shall first have been approved by their respective legislatures; 
6. A constitutional convention: 
Parliament, once members of the executive are excluded, must host a constitutional convention to draw up a definitive codified constitution for the peoples of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It shall recognise their sovereign status and their inherent, inalienable rights and which shall be subject to their approval. 
 Let us look at Point 3:
3. Separation of powers: 
The executive shall be separated from the legislature. To that effect, prime ministers shall be elected by popular vote; they shall appoint their own ministers, with the approval of parliament, to assist in the exercise of such powers as may be granted to them by the sovereign people of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland; no prime ministers or their ministers shall be members of parliament or any legislative assembly;
Anyone could stand to be Prime Minister. They would have to campaign for votes locally and then nationally to be elected. They would not necessarily come from any political party. You could thus have an election between Nigel Farage, Nicola Sturgeon, Theresa May and Kier Starmer. 

The winner would be Prime Minister but NOT a member of Parliament. That Prime Minister would be able to choose ministers from all walks of life (service chiefs, surgeons, nurses, teachers, heads of companies etc.) to serve in their cabinets. Such ministers would have to be vetted by and approved by Parliament either by a select committee or by the whole House.

Those ministers would not be MP's but they (and the Prime Minister) would answer questions on the floor of the House of Commons. These appearances before the elected House would be mandatory. The legislature would thus have a free hand in holding them properly to account without having to be answerable to a party system or the whips.

I have written before about local Government and abolishing the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) (
http://leavetheeuropeanunion.blogspot.co.uk/2017/08/a-personal-vision-for-britain.html) and it seems to me that point 2 in very important in this regard:
Real local democracy: 
The foundation of our democracy shall be the counties (or other local units as may be defined), which shall become constitutional bodies exercising under the control of their peoples all powers of legislation, taxation and administration not specifically granted by the people to the national government
The House of Commons should not be discussing the local bus service in Newcastle Upon Tyne or the local walk-in centre in Corby. This should be the responsibility of the County Council or Local Council. I am in favour of abolishing all National Grants to local authorities. 

Return the central tax to the taxpayer and make the County Council raise their own local tax and be responsible for spending it and being accountable to the people for their actions.

If Scotland and Wales wanted more independence from England and a majority of their peoples wanted it they would be allowed to have it except for Defence, Security (MI5, MI6, GCHQ) and Foreign and Commonwealth Office and any taxation powers essential to keep these services running. Everything else would be devolved.

Turning to money there is Point 5:

No taxation or spending without consent: 
No tax, charge or levy shall be imposed, nor any public spending authorised, nor any sum borrowed by any national or local government except with the express approval the majority of the people, renewed annually on presentation of a budget which shall first have been approved by their respective legislatures;
It seems to me that if you can confirm your electoral registration or vote for your favourite celebrity on "Strictly Come Dancing" via telephone then it is entirely possible to vote for (or against!) the budget via telephone.

The point of this post is that the political class seems not to be listening or, if it is listening is not hearing the message which is this:
The Conservative Party can if it wishes for purely selfish party ends - to keep the party united, to placate its think tanks and to abase itself before its donors go for a hard Brexit which will mean in the short term: 
No flights outside UK airspace (because no flight plan can be logged because access to EU databases and interfaces will cease on exit), Dover which is not even a Border Inspection Point (Post) or BIP will become a car park, registration of medicines and chemicals will be compromised, live animal exports will probably cease (the nearest BIP in France is in Dunkirk which can manage 5000 consignments a year), Horse Racing and Formula 1 will be endangered and there may be food shortages. 
If they do this however it will lead to an horrendous economic downturn and political wipeout for the Conservative party (the only bright spot in the whole landscape). They will not be forgiven in a generation.
The British people have allowed their (our) political class a huge amount of slack and we must never allow them to have that much or anything like that much ever again. 

Let the people reclaim THEIR power from the politicians.

No Deal is NOT a credible option

Thursday, 12 October 2017

A Letter to my Member of Parliament

I have become increasingly concerned about Brexit and the Prime Minister's statements about Brexit.

I telephoned your office today and spoke to one of your parliamentary assistants and thank him for his time.

Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said in Parliament the other day that all flights between the UK and the EU could stop on 29th March 2019 if there were 'No Deal' (see http://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/864962/Philip-Hammond-Brexit-flights-European-Union-UK-airlines)

Today, Michel Barnier, the chief negotiator for the European Union and the other 27 states has said today that "I am not able in the current circumstances to propose that we should start discussions on our future relationship". (see https://ec.europa.eu/avservices/focus/index.cfm?sitelang=en&focusid=2687

We are being told that if the UK leaves the EU under no deal we can trade happily under WTO terms but in actual fact I have seen references to Mutual Recognition Agreements and Free Trade Agreements which are NOT WTO terms but different from WTO terms.

The United Kingdom voted correctly in my view to leave the European Union but we expected the Government to negotiate the best deal for the country which in my view they are not doing. Lord David Owen said on the radio yesterday that he thought it was incorrect of the Conservative Party to treat Brexit as solely a Conservative Party undertaking. He said he thought all parties should be involved and I agree with that.

It is the United Kingdom's decision to leave 'The Club' and if we leave without a deal we will lose access to European Union databases and interfaces to which we have so far enjoyed access.

  1. No airline company will be able to leave UK airspace as they will have no overflying rights and cannot log a flight plan. There will be no flights coming up to Easter 2019. Just think what the electorate will make of that.
  2. Dover is not a registered Border Inspection Point (Port - BIP). https://ec.europa.eu/food/sites/food/files/animals/docs/bips_contact_unitedkingdom.pdf
  3. The nearest Border Inspection Point in France is in Dunkirk NOT Calais. Dunkirk BIP was recently enlarged and can cope with 5000 trucks per annum. "Each year, Eurotunnel carries 1,600,000 trucks to and from the UK with a total trade of £91 billion".  Lorries to France will effectively be stopped and there will be a log jam.
  4. France will not be eager to recruit more staff to ensure Dunkirk BIP is properly staffed and can cope with the traffic (why should they) unless, I suspect, the United Kingdom was willing to underwrite those costs.
  5. Animal Products, Chemicals and other goods will be dramatically impacted by Brexit. Horse Racing and Formula 1 will be adversely affected. The British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) and the European Fresh Produce Association (Freshfel) have started to sound warnings and I expect there to be more.
  6. In a no deal scenario, the implications for the Irish border, the only land border between the United Kingdom and the European Union will be horrendous.

The Prime Minister has said that for a 2 year implementation period after Brexit the United Kingdom will effectively mirror the European Union:
"During this strictly time-limited period, we will have left the EU and its institutions, but we are proposing that for this period access to one another’s markets should continue on current terms and Britain also should continue to take part in existing security measures."
This in effect means that we will be under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice until 2021

As this is the case, the United Kingdom will not have left the European Union on 29th March 2019.

The president of the EFTA court, and ministers of Iceland and Norway have all suggested that the United Kingdom should join EFTA and thus stay in the single market. The European Union has even said that it would let the United Kingdom invoke Article 112 of the EEA treaty which would allow the United Kingdom to MANAGE immigration once we were an EFTA state.

I know you are on the 'payroll vote' but I think you should warn ministers of the economic catastrophe that a 'No Deal' entails. In 2017, your majority was only 1915 votes. How many constituents are employed by Luton and Heathrow airports or trade with the European Union. Can your majority survive a No Deal conclusion?

It is not an optimal solution but the safest solution is to join EFTA, stay in the European Single Market and work as an independent state intergovernmentally to develop EFTA and the EEA treaty in to something better than it is and work towards the final goal in UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe).

I am sorry for the length of this email but I am seriously worried.

Yours sincerely


Much of the above is taken from the postings of EUReferendum.com (www.eureferendum.com) or The Leave Alliance (http://leavehq.com/default.aspx) or from Flexcit (http://www.eureferendum.com/documents/Flexcit.pdf)

Not covered above is that if we left the Customs Union but stayed in the single market via EFTA/EEA, the United Kingdom will be outside the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and subject to the EFTA Court.

The Irish border issue could be much better managed if we rejoined EFTA.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

The EFTA/EEA First Stop Solution

The European Economic Area is the Geographical extent of the European Single Market. I had never thought of it in that way before. This is a far better definition in my view than regarding the European Economic Area as the European Union plus the EFTA (European Free Trade Area) countries.

I read this definition in EUReferendum.com (http://www.eureferendum.com) which I read daily and which I heartily recommend.

The European Economic Area geographical area goes from Iceland and Norway in the North to Greece in the South and from Portugal in the West to Poland in the East. It is a vast area and a huge market. Although we need to leave THE Customs Union to leave the European Union, we do not have to leave the European Single Market if we rejoin EFTA. The Single Market would give the United Kingdom virtually frictionless trade which it enjoys now.

If we rejoined EFTA, we could work with the other EFTA states to amend the EEA agreement so that it was a better agreement for ALL the EEA states not just the EFTA ones. 

The EEA agreement could be moulded as a 'first stop' to a final destination of an inter-Governmental village of equal sovereign states. An inter-Governmental market not a supra-national one.

The following article appeared in 'Labour List':
On Sunday Keir Starmer used an article in The Observer to call time on the ambiguity that had come to define Labour’s approach to Brexit since the referendum. It was an approach that had served us well on 8 June, but it was never sustainable. With the clock ticking, the economy tanking, the pressure from Brussels building and the country crying out for some political leadership, it was high time that we set out our stall.
For several months I’ve also been arguing that our party and broader movement should adopt a clear, principled and pragmatic approach to Brexit that would enable us to: 

  • leave the EU by walking calmly across a bridge, rather than by leaping recklessly off a cliff; 

  • recognise the reality of the EU’s non-negotiable position on the phasing of the Brexit talks (ie divorce details first, long-term trade and partnership talks second), and therefore focus on the resulting inevitability and centrality of the transition deal;

  • commit to a transition deal that delivers as much certainty and stability as possible, and that can realistically be secured in the highly compressed timeframe available (ie has to be off-the-shelf, rather than bespoke);

The position that Keir set out on Sunday delivers brilliantly, both in terms of the emphasis that it places on the pivotal importance of the transition deal, and in terms of its unequivocal rejection of the government’s ‘fantasy politics’ insistence that it will be possible to negotiate a bespoke transition.
So far, so good. But in stating that a bespoke transition deal is a pipe dream, then we must, by definition, be saying that an off-the-shelf model is required. And the fact of the matter is that if we are looking for a ready-made transition model, then EEA/EFTA membership is the only viable option. As well established and well understood international frameworks the EEA and EFTA offer precisely the security, certainty and stability that our country so desperately needs, in these turbulent times. Therefore the sooner we can define and specify the type of off-the-shelf transition deal that is required the better, as doing so will demonstrate that we are the only political party that truly understands the devastating impact that further uncertainty and instability will have on the jobs and livelihoods of the very people that we were elected to represent.
Committing to an EEA/EFTA-based transition would also provide much-needed clarity in terms of our position on the reform of free movement of people and labour. Twenty-four hours after the publication of Keir’s Observer article, the Guardian’s front-page headline was: ‘Backlash over Labour’s shift to soft Brexit’, and the piece quotes senior Labour MPs stating that the front bench’s newly clarified position risks alienating voters who support greater controls on immigration.
But the crucial point here is that EEA not only provides its members with maximum access to the single market, it also allows them to suspend and reform freedom of movement. 
Articles 112 and 113 of the EEA Agreement provide EEA member states with the legal base for managing the inward flow of EU citizens. EEA member states are entitled to unilaterally invoke article 112 safeguard measures, thus enabling them to suspend freedom of movement and replace it with a sectoral quota-based system. As Richard North points out in his highly informative paper, single market participation and free movement of persons, article 112 safeguard measures were invoked in 1992 by no less than four of the then seven EFTA members, namely Austria, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, all citing the need to protect real estate, capital and labour markets. 
Moreover, Martin Schulz, the former president of the European parliament and now the SPD’s candidate for the September federal election has spoken in positive terms about a “safeguard clause” that would “introduce quotas after a certain immigration threshold is achieved in specific regions and industries”. 
This zombie government, led by an utterly discredited prime minister, is guilty of gross incompetence in office. The cabinet has spent far more time negotiating with itself than it has with Brussels, and the Brexiteers are seemingly intent on doing potentially irreparable damage to our economy, and to our broader national interest through the flippant, bombastic and childish way in which they think and talk about the EU. It is therefore absolutely imperative that the Labour movement unites around a settled position on Brexit, so that we can signal to the British people and to our European partners that we are the only grown-ups in the room, and that we’re ready, willing and able to negotiate a principled and pragmatic deal.
Full membership of the single market is not possible without being a member of the European Union, but in shifting to EEA/EFTA membership we would be leaving the EU and becoming part of an internal market that is deeply integrated with the single market.
And this shift would also allow us to reform free movement and retain tariff free access to the EU via the EEA, and via EFTA we would have a customs arrangement with the EU27, ensuring frictionless trade while also being able to negotiate free trade deals with the rest of the world.
Transitional EEA/EFTA membership would therefore enable us to fulfil not only the ideas outlined by Keir over the weekend, but also those of Jeremy and the manifesto upon which all Labour MPs stood and members campaigned, just a few short months ago.
The next step must now be for Labour to commit to an EEA/EFTA-based transition. And it is a step that cannot come quickly enough. For well over a year now we have been grappling with the vexed question of how best to reconcile maximum access to the single market with greater controls on immigration, and the contrast between the front pages of Sunday’s Observer and Monday’s Guardian shows that these differences of opinion are far from settled.
And yet, whilst the debate has been raging, could it be possible that the opportunity to square our Brexit circle has been staring us in the face?
This article is in the national interest and should be taken seriously. Its author is the Member of Parliament for Aberavon, Mr Stephen Kinnock.

Friday, 25 August 2017

The National Health Service

Recently I posted a blog entitled 'A Personal Vision for Britain" (http://leavetheeuropeanunion.blogspot.co.uk/2017/08/a-personal-vision-for-britain.html) in which I wrote the following:
It seems to me that the National Health Service is unaffordable in its present form.  What is needed are ideas on total reform of the NHS (a blank sheet of paper, start again) nothing should be off the agenda. Form a group of Conservative minded people, but it must not be party political, to look at, discuss and brainstorm all suggestions. With an ageing population and the probability of rocketing geriatric medicine costs everything must be on the table. This includes Mental Health, Care in the Community and Old Persons Care Home costs.     
I then promoted the blog via Twitter and a person with the 'handle' of 'The Bald Colder' has been communicating with me on this subject. To be fair, 'Bald Colder' can only tweet in batches of 140 characters and we have had a healthy debate.  Here is a flavour of the 'Bald Colder' tweets as if I included them all it would take too much space. I am going to send a copy of this blog to 'Bald Colder' and give this person the chance to response. Their response will be published here if it is forthcoming:
Actually for the amount of money we put into the NHS, our patient outcomes trounce the American system.
The American system is horrifically inefficient because doctors over-prescribe because they are effectively on commission
Wow a Brexiteer where the penny has dropped we're in a giant ponzi scheme. With birth rate 1.9 we have to rely on immigrants
I'm more than happy to talk about healthcare in other countries but our problem is pure and simple: we don't put enough in.
What I would like to see is a tax that is specifically for the NHS and the gov't to compare results on a GDP per capita basis to our peers.
It was a quite a vibrant debate. I would like to see a national debate about what the NHS should look like now. I do not doubt its design was good for the 1940's but I am not convinced it is suitable for 2017.

I would like to see a committee set up to look at what the NHS should look like in the modern world. That committee should not include any elected politician (local or national) and be given a remit of 'here is a blank sheet of paper, what should the NHS look like?'

The chairman of that committee could be elected by a telephone poll. If you can vote for your favourite celebrity on 'Strictly Come Dancing' why not vote for your favourite candidate from a list to chair the 'NHS committee'? It would probably have to be confined to 11 members so it was not unwieldly. The person chosen to chair it, representatives of the Royal Colleges and of Patients would be nominated to sit on it.

On my blank sheet of paper:

  • Take a deposit to book a doctors or outpatients appointment - a credit or debit card payment (just like a 'contactless payment'). It would be, say £5. If the person turns up to the appointment, the money would be refunded; if not the hospital or practice would keep the deposit. (This would in all likelihood reduce missed appointments)
  • Make patients buy their own walking sticks, crutches or wheelchairs. A wheelchair on Amazon is £119.99. Patients would be free to donate them to the NHS after they had finished with them if they wanted to.
  • Do not fund any cosmetic surgical procedures (except for body reconstruction following cancer treatments such as Mastectomy).
  • Allow Local Authorities to buy groups of houses or build groups of houses in little 'villages' for respite patients, care in the community patients and to relieve bed blocking.
  • Consider whether local or cottage hospitals are a possibility for simple procedures
  • Is the current staffing structure fit for purpose?
  • Look at the salaries being paid to senior managers
It is already the case that those over 60 disproportionately take resources from the Health Service. It seems very likely that this cost will increase radically in the next 10 years or so - we have an ageing population.

I do not know if any of the above ideas are good ones or even feasible. 

What I am advocating is a fresh look 70 years after the template was first designed to see if it should have the same look. If it needs to be reformed or re-engineered, let the "NHS Committee" report that back. Equally, if the "NHS Committee" thinks the current model is the right way for the 21st century I would accept that.

Once the "NHS Committee" reports back and I envisage them having 2 years to compile their report, it would be published and a proper public debate of at least another year would follow.  

These are just my personal thoughts. If you are going to comment please keep the comments polite. I have no power just a desire to discuss the NHS in order to change it if necessary to make it the best it can be.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

A Defence of Free Speech

I have said on this blog before that I believe in Free Speech. Further than that, in my last post I stated my position as being that anyone should be able to say anything they like about anyone and that this right should be enshrined in Law.

I was not sure how much I actually believed in Free Speech until I realised how much Free Speech is under attack. This attack is mostly coming from those who are regarded as Social Justice Warriors and the Equality and Diversity lobby but also occasionally by agents of the State such as the Police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). 

I would rather that phrases like 'stupid woman' were not used and that in politics especially we could refer to people in a genderless way, for example, 'what the person said was rubbish'. It really does not matter to me that Diane Abbott is female and not white. Some of her statements during the election were just rubbish on their own terms and if they had been uttered by a robot would still be rubbish. It appears that she may have been ill when she "misspoke" (sic) so maybe some allowance should be made for Ms Abbott on that point.

This applies equally to people who are not women. Some of the statements of some senior male Conservative politicians in recent weeks have been equally nonsensical. Currently David Davis seems to be tying himself in knots. So let us all focus on WHAT is said and not WHO says them.

All that said I am dismayed by the definition of 'Hate Crime' recognised by the CPS and police, is “any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice”'

I don't have any issue with the 'perceived by the victim' part but I DO have an issue with the 'any other person' part - that could be any of about 58 million people. I think it possible that the CPS is trying to cover Social Media and Internet communication but it is still far too wide a definition.

The following article appeared in "Commentary" and was written by Sohrab Ahmadi. (https://www.commentarymagazine.com/foreign-policy/europe/englands-online-speech-crackdown/)
Censors are always looking for fresh opportunities to censor. So they relish moments of ideological ferment, antagonism, and intemperateness. At such times, people are more susceptible to moral panic and likelier to silence opposing views. We are living through such a moment now, with neo-Nazis, Communists, and various other haters and cranks on the march, both in the streets and online. That’s why open societies should be doubly vigilant against efforts to restrict free expression. 
One such effort got underway this week in England, where the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) revised its guidelines to prosecutors regarding “hate crimes.” Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders on Monday announced the new guidelines in an op-ed in the Guardian newspaper, and British civil libertarians have good reason to be alarmed. 
Writing with that unmistakable tone of hauteur common to crusading bureaucrats, Saunders didn’t disguise the fact that prosecutors in England and Wales – Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own prosecution services – will now be in the business of going after people for airing unacceptable viewpoints. “People all over the world are questioning how those in positions of power can counter the kinds of extreme views that are increasingly being aired,” she wrote, “and how societies might do more to prevent such opinions from gestating in the first place.” 
There is no easy answer to the problem, Saunders suggested. Then she went on to provide one: treating “online hate crimes as seriously as those committed face to face.” Put another way, the fellow who drunkenly throws racist barbs on Twitter may now face prosecution as vigorous as the neo-Nazi who vandalizes a synagogue or mosque with pig’s blood. The most senior prosecutor in England and Wales has expanded the definition of hate crime so far as to proscribe almost any disagreeable or uncivil statement. 
The country already has malicious-communication laws and other provisions against online harassment and abuse, and these are strictly enforced. Last month, for example, a British aristocrat was convicted of malicious communication and sentenced to 12 weeks in jail for offering £5,000 ($6,417) to any of his online followers who would run over anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller. In December an English blogger was convicted of racially aggravated harassment for helping direct a campaign of anti-Semitic abuse at a Jewish MP. 
The hate-crime laws are already broad. Authorities define as a hate crime “any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice, based on a person’s disability or perceived disability; race or perceived race; or religion or perceived religion; or sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation or a person who is transgender or perceived to be transgender.” (Emphasis added. Note that the definition turns entirely on the subjective perceptions of alleged victims.) 
Under rules promulgated in 2014, moreover, police are required to investigate hate-crime allegations “regardless of whether or not those making the complaint are the victim and irrespective of whether or not there is any evidence to identify the hate crime incident.” That resulted in Home Secretary Amber Rudd being investigated for hate over a speech she delivered at last year’s Tory party conference, in which she railed against foreigners “taking jobs British workers could do.” An Oxford physics professor was so offended that he lodged a criminal complaint. The police declined to investigate, but they recorded the matter as a “non-crime hate incident.” (Ironically, Rudd, who represents the nannyish wing of the Tories, endorsed the 2014 rule change.) 
Now the CPS intends to take things further by applying the subjective definition embedded in the hate-crime laws to online communications. In her op-ed, Saunders pooh-poohed free-speech concerns. “There are crucial provisions in law to ensure we do not stifle free speech, an important right in our society,” she wrote. Which ones? 
Saunders didn’t elaborate. She went on: “Hate is hate, however.” 
Well, yes, but sometimes hate speech is also protected speech. And in an age of aggressive, and often aggressively stupid, political correctness, merely controversial or disagreeable speech can end up being framed as “hate.” 
The law and CPS’s guidelines turn heavily on the concept of hostility, which is defined as “ill-will, ill-feeling, spite, prejudice, unfriendliness, antagonism, resentment, and dislike.” It is hard to see how people in England can debate, say, the hot-button issue of transgender bathrooms without running afoul of Saunders’s law against “dislike.”
It would be interesting to see the CPS definition of "Hate" and of "Extreme Views" as a start in this debate. What is a hateful statement or an extreme one come to that?

Under the "Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006" Schedule 29J it states:
"Nothing in this part shall be read or given effect in a way which prohibits or restricts discussion, criticism or expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule, insult or abuse of particular religions or the beliefs or practices of their adherents, or of any other belief system or the beliefs or practices of its adherents, or proselytising or urging adherents of a different religion or belief system to cease practising their religion or belief system"
In my opinion people should be able to argue and debate freely, certainly free of a CPS intent on imposing its view of what is acceptable communication. 

What the CPS is proposing and doing could be used, despite their protestations, to constrain Freedom of Speech and we, the people and electors, must not stand for it. 

A personal Vision for Britain

This post is about the United Kingdom. It is about the kind of country I think Britain should be. I am not ashamed to say that I love my country and have discovered I love it more as I get older.

I am a Leave voter, I have campaigned and will continue to campaign to leave the European Union. I have recently begun to post lots of tweets on Twitter on this and about other issues which I feel passionate about. I read the blogs of other people and have learned from them and gained information and ideas.

Leaving the European Union is not the end, it is only the end of the beginning and so I hope that there can be a debate about what the United Kingdom should look like after we leave the European Union.

I like the blogs of Sam Hooper and he has some ideas about how those who are conservative should respond to the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, Momentum and the Left who are on the march and intend to gain power. This blog is an example of where he is coming from

The problem, as far as I am concerned, is that the Conservative Party is not Conservative. It is at best a left of centre New Labour Bliarite confection. There was very little Conservative Policy in the last 'Conservative Party' manifesto.

So this post is what I would like to see in a post-Brexit United Kingdom. 

First I would like to see Freedom of Speech strengthened. It is under massive attack and not always by the left. The right of anyone to say anything about anybody should be enshrined in Law. 

That would include defamatory attacks which would be taken care of in the Libel and Slander Laws. If it is the case that a correction needs to be published (in whatever form) then that correction should be published in the same form, in the same place and in the same typeface or programme slot as the item corrected. On the front page if that is where the error was printed.

It seems to me that the National Health Service is unaffordable in its present form.  What is needed are ideas on total reform of the NHS (a blank sheet of paper, start again) nothing should be off the agenda. Form a group of Conservative minded people, but it must not be party political, to look at, discuss and brainstorm all suggestions. With an ageing population and the probability of rocketing geriatric medicine costs everything must be on the table. This includes Mental Health, Care in the Community and Old Persons Care Home costs.     

Abolish the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). Return all Central taxes paid to local Government to the Taxpayer and make local authorities or regional authorities plan their own budgets, their own expenditure and make Local Government raise their own taxes. Make Local Government truly work. Chris Grayling has already suggested that the North should 'take control' of their own transport networks so why not for everything else? (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-41020391)

The local authorities would recruit the people they needed such as ex DCLG Civil Servants. Such policies and expenditure would come from the budgets they set and finance they raise. Make mayors such as Andy Burnham work for their money and their pay would be decided in local referenda by the people they represent. That should increase the turnout in local elections. It would also ensure that profligacy would stop. Local people would ensure that it did. Many of these ideas are influenced by The Harrogate Agenda (THA) http://harrogateagenda.org.uk

There would also have to be a root and branch review and rethink of how Edinburgh and Cardiff were financed too but imagine a truly local tax where the budgets and the taxes were set and voted for by local people as set out in the Harrogate Agenda and where real power rested with the people. 

Reduce Parliament to Defence, Intelligence and Foreign and Commonwealth affairs only and reduce the number of MP's at Westminster to 300. Consider ensuring that some of these do not come from any political party - 'Non Party' MP's. The Houses of Parliament would be for truly National issues only.

Devolve as much power, by which I mean with the exception of Defence, Intelligence and Foreign Office matters, to Edinburgh, Cardiff and the English regions. The competence or otherwise of the leaders in these parts of the United Kingdom would soon be proved. 

Means test or target all OAP benefits such as Free bus passes. It is hard to defend wealthier old people getting free bus passes when they more than likely have their own transport and can afford to fund their own Public Transport costs. Abolish the commitment to the 'Triple Lock'. More and more company and private pension schemes are moving to increasing benefits by CPI rather than RPI - so should the State Old Age Pension.

Create a 'Graduation Tax' where, instead of loans, any graduate who agreed to get a paid job and work in the United Kingdom (and in the region in which they qualified if that was thought desirable) for 5 years and could prove that they had done so would not pay any tuition fees. One way of doing this would be to have a 'Graduates Tax Code' where the fees were deducted at source for those 5 years and then refunded in full in the 61st month and thus, as a bonus, be a Graduate Saving Scheme as well.

Any Doctor or Nurse for example who had been trained in the United Kingdom at the taxpayers' expense would repay that cost by working in the United Kingdom health sector (a reformed NHS or Private medicine) for 5 years.

The same rule would apply to other graduates; Solicitors, Social Workers and indeed anyone else who was educated at a United Kingdom University - who would repay their tuition by working in the United Kingdom for 5 years. 

Think outside the box! Imagine all new graduates working and being paid in the United Kingdom for 5 years after their qualification and repaying their debt by work.

It seems to me that the United Kingdom is going to change radically over the next five years and so let us have a debate to change it in a way so that the template we get after the UK changes is the template that we the electors want.