Re-Moaners and Trump’eters

Another few weeks drift past and yet the same issues which seem to have been in the news all year, remain.

The US never-ending election still has over 3 weeks to run and just when you think the behaviour and approach of both camps can’t get any worse they manage to achieve it. If it’s not sexual abuse allegations it’s more leaked emails. I pity the American voter. I thought our choice this side of the Atlantic was pretty bad but the candidates there look appalling.

I watched the clip of Gary Johnson who is apparently also standing as a Libertarian Party candidate – I mean really? Over five years into a civil war in Syria and this man who wants to be President of the most powerful nation on earth does not know what Aleppo is?

At least Trump and Clinton have managed to answer some questions on the subject. It’s not unusual for foreign affairs (not the sexual kind) to play little part in a US election, but one might have expected that confrontations with Russia over Syria, Ukraine and Crimea, to have some impact. Likewise relations with China over the Spratley Islands rather than ridiculous notions of simplistic arguments over manufacturing jobs in the US should have some policy. It remains completely unreported what either candidate’s plans for North Korea are. Better not ask Trump but his rhetoric can’t be worse than the accusations from US Security services that NK was behind the Sony attack.

What still amazes many commentators is that Trump is still popular with large swathes of the US electorate despite all the gaffes. It demonstrates how unpopular Clinton is but more importantly how upset many American voters are with the established political class which Clinton embodies.  Here we have some of the parallels with the UK EU debate despite the referendum.

Although there is an element of the moaning bad loser side in some of the pronouncements from what was the remain side, many did set out the risks to the economy an no-vote would bring. Several senior economists have stated that the currency changes that we have seen since end of June were a long overdue correction to Sterling’s position just exasperated by the vote for exit and on-going uncertainty of what that means. In the percentages shown everything is referred to the currency position post 23rd June, failing as usual to mention that Sterling’s value had risen significantly in the lead up to the vote.

Euro over 5 years from here shows a different story than the headlines might have you believe on 19th Oct 2011 the exchange rate was 1.14 and it closed on 14th Oct 2016 at 1.11. In particular, the rise of the pound in 2015 and the lead up to the vote is dramatic. US Dollar to Sterling is a significant fall over the same period 1.57 to 1.21 and the comments on reserve currencies should be concerning, but at the same time interest rates have been signaled upwards in the US and stay the same or lower in the UK which does not help Sterling investors. By the way Euro to US Dollar has gone down from 1.37 to 1.11 in the same time period.

I have picked an arbitrary period but some of us can remember much better and worse Pound to Dollar rates. It reached a low of 1.05 in February 1985 after the ERM fiasco and was as high as 2.11 in November 2007 as sub-prime crashed the dollar

What do we learn from that brief history- currencies fluctuate – sometimes a lot – thousands of traders around the world make money doing that.

Final discussion for today is on Credit Rating Agencies and their comments – yes the same folks that branded those sub-prime investment funds as AAA, are doing all their warnings on where the pound might go next. All the discussion is based on what the UK might do as if what might happen in the Euro (How is Greece by the way and Italy, Portugal, Spain?) will have no impact. Remember Euro zone and other EU exports to the UK, exceed UK Exports to the EU – we both have a lot to lose if we are stupid and put in unnecessary tariffs.  World trade will be damaged if Trump introduced tariffs to protect American jobs and cancels NAFTA. Likewise what will be the impact on the dollar if Trump wins and implements that piece of rhetoric.

Guess what the pound might go up or down or sideways.  Can we moan about currency traders instead?

Brexit and Democracy

I have managed to not blog on the EU Referendum result or the lead up to it for a couple of weeks. I remained undecided until I walked into the voting booth. I was as amazed as anyone else when the result went through. Even more amazed by the reaction of some remain supporters. Yes there were some foolish potentially racist comments posted in the aftermath although I was not aware Polish was a race, nor Muslim.

Accusing leave voters of being racists, Nazis, stupid, working class idiots also does not hold good for democracy either. Scotland’s histrionics just add to the noise. Clearly the SNP does not understand what democracy is. Scotalnd voted to stay in the UK, the UK voted to leave. To claim that the Scottish referendum would have been different if the EU result was known is a great way of re-writing history or wishful thinking. It’s not as if the Conservative Party’s promise to hold an EU referendum was a secret.

Perhaps instead of blaming England the SNP leadership had spent more time in England convincing English voters to Remain the result might have been different; but that’s a lot of votes (1.3m) to change. Isn’t democracy an awful form of government except all the others to misquote Churchill I think. Could someone please give Donald Tursk and Claude Junker a lesson in how democracy really works. Again perhaps if they had spent time trying to persuade the UK how great the EU was rather than trying to scare the living daylihts out of the electorate the rsult might have been different. Same for Merkel, Allande etc.

The argument on young people wanting to remain is also difficult to substantiate. Given information is opinion poll based i.e. a good guess, it appears that 65% of the so called 18-24 year old surveyed could not be bothered to vote. Then again 28% of the electorate did not bother either. Compulsory voting anyone.

Yes I can also calculate that 52% of 72% of the 39.5m voting population of 65m UK (and Gibraltar) total population is not a majority but neither is 48% of the same numbers. The rules were passed in Parliament. Did you campaign for any decision to require 66.6% majority to change or a 75% turnout. Are you aggrieved that  a Scottish golf course voted to keep women out because it also had a two-thirds majority rule. Should we have a two thirds for a new referendum on staying in to reverse this advisory decision. How about two thirds for Scotland to leave UK. I don;t mind but don’t try to change the rules afterwards. I personally think that the England football team should be given a two goal head start for every game and only blind players should be allowed in the opposition team. Unfortunately those are not the rules. Perhaps I should approach FIFA to get them changed or cheer Iceland on.

Anyway what is done is done, and that is democracy, however flawed – sorry BBC, parliamentarians and so on – so lets have some facts. Could have done with some of these in the debate.

  • The UK has not left the EU, the single market or anything else – yet.
  • It has carried out an advisory referendum which will require a formal notification to the EU Council of Ministers invoking Article 50. According to constitutional experts, to do this will require an Act of Parliament in the UK. No such Act has been added to the Bill list – yet. This is because the EU treaties are enshrined in UK law therefore to break them will require one or more different Acts of Parliament
  • It is for the UK to submit this notice not for the EU other heads of state, or the bureaucrats to demand it as soon as possible or any other time. By having meeting without the UK present you are acting as if it has happened when it has not.
  • The Prime Minister at least for the next few weeks remains David Cameron
  • The leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal opposition at at 2nd July 12:00 BST, remains Jeremy Corbyn
  • The Conservative Government still holds a majority of 12 in the House of Commons
  • George Osbourne is still The Chancellor – doom, gloom, disaster and inaccurate economic forecasts since 2010
  • The UK is still one nation by treaty – and the UK does not consist of London Westminster bubble and Nicola Sturgeon trying to leave it.
  • The UK is still a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council
  • The UK is in, and is the 2nd largest contributor to NATO. Some members of the EU are not in that organisation – so much for helping security
  • The UK has the 5th or 6th largest economy in the World
  • The UK is also a key member of the IMF, WTO, WHO etc.
  • The UK has multiple separate treaties with many if not all EU members most of which pre-date the EU. The immigration treaty with France covering Channel Tunnel etc, is newer but it is not an EU treaty it still applies unless the UK or France wish to cancel it. We have treaties with lots of other countries to
  • London’s financial centre is still the biggest in the world and London is amazingly still in the UK
  • There are 27 other countries in the EU but 180 outside including some not insignificant countries like the USA, China, India etc. The EU has no trade agreement with these. It spent 7 years getting a minor agreement complete with Canada. The UK with Canada could probably agree one in 7 months.
  • The UK is the largest importer of German manufactured automobiles and French Champagne – shall we tariff that?
  • Half of the UK’s net immigration is not from the EU and one of the candidates to be Prime Minister has been in charge of that for years. Net population growth remains the issue, not where the growth comes from.
  • In other news
    • Donald Trump might win the US presidency
    • Migrants are still dying off the coast of the EU
    • IS is still carrying out terrorist attacks
    • The Syrian civil war is going on – still
    • Wales are still in Euros (congrats and please advise England how to play football)
    • Its been raining – a lot – ye I know Wimbledon is on
    • We still pay tax – clearly global companies and the very rich are excluded from the comment – some of them in London finance – they might move
    • We will all die – sometime
    • The sun will rise in the East and set in the West

By the way it was a secret ballot but I will confess to voting out the first and only time I have ever stated who I actually voted for. I am clearly a working class, racist idiot who does not understand anything. I have never voted for Boris as I am not a Londoner or in his constituency, nor can i or could I vote for Crobyn or Cameron as MPs. O could have joined the parties and voted for them but I have better things to do with my life. – like most of the population.

Or maybe I think that the UK Parliament is sovereign for the UK, not 27 other countries who have different legal systems and cultures. I never got to vote to go in, nor did anyone else. I was too young to vote to stay-in, so this was my first ever opportunity to have a say – yours too unless you were over 18 in 1975 . No mainstream political party (ignoring UKIP) has offered this change at a General Election since Labour changed policy at the last referendum (Corbyn has as well despite being an out campaigner for decades).

Is the sun out yet?

Music and Musing – OK, The EU Referendum As Well

My first creative writing outside school work was actually music lyrics. The words were my first artistic adventures and continued for many years. The few poems on this site are really lyrics for various songs that I have written over the years. Music still inspires me and has the power to move me like no other art form. I like to think I have a wide taste in genres from classical (including some opera) through to modern pop, although rap is a real effort whilst appreciating the skill of the lyricist.

I appreciate art, as in painting and sculpture, in the same way but I do not find it moves me in the same way as music, likewise theatre. I did write a short story, Landscape, with art as the background attempting to convey my love of some paintings. Musical theatre does have that impact, whereas opera tends to get lost for me except the odd aria. Probably the language barrier but also the variations in the notes – a complaint I have with much Jazz.

The language barrier (not necessarily the artistic barrier – ignore the Eurovision song contest) of course applies to our European colleagues, the focus of much of the debate in the referendum. There is not just a language barrier but also a cultural and legal one. Many European countries have a legal system based on Roman/Napoleonic basis (France and other codified legal systems) or are federated states (UK has devolved power to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but not England) as opposed to common law based on precedent with juries. The EU is codified leading I believe to many of the clashes we have seen with the ECJ and the slow but creeping codification of the UK’s laws driven from the EU – a background driver for the sovereignty debate i.e. where UK precedent can be overruled by a codified European Court causing a codified change to UK law.

I remain undecided. I have written before about my concern with population growth. This issue is mixed up with immigration, asylum and the crisis facing the world (not just the EU) The increase in the world’s population is staggering

populationgrowthhistory2

As is the UK’s from Migration watch but using ONS numbers

bp9_31_chart

The future projections which are based on net migration levels plus the impact of the new population having children must be addressed. Regardless of what happens in the referendum, and associated immigration policy, the increases of the last ten years will have a major impact on schools, housing, healthcare, etc. for generations. More cars, more use of public transport, and it takes years to get infrastructure in place to cope from London airport runways to sewer mains.

I grew up at a time when the net birth rate was thought to be falling below 2, i.e. population decline. This has now reversed and we have added a massive increase in life expectancy which impacts the same things plus pensions but with a disproportionate impact on health and social care.

As with many undecided I am annoyed with the quality and tone of the debate making it very hard to decipher fact from fiction or forecasts or the real risks in either choice.

The In campaigners fail to talk about the impact of ever closer union (yes UK may have an opt out) when EU policy is pursued. Especially the efforts of Eurozone countries to support the currency. We will be outside (we already are) that decision process. i.e. if EU funds are used to support an in-crisis Eurozone country ahead of a non Eurozone country purely to help stabilise the Eurozone and prevent another crisis. I have just returned from Greece – that crisis has not gone away. The impact on the UK and the financial systems is there regardless of membership status. Outside the Eurozone the UK has zero ability to influence policy in or out. The only way we could would be to stay in and join the Euro! That is something that has been ruled out by most euro campaigners, which seems illogical if we really want to be at the table and have a say on the future of the EU.

The Out campaigners fail to address the risk and the economic forecasts, ignoring many supposedly qualified commentators. Albeit, being lectured by American bankers (Merrill Lynch) and other big businesses does not go down well. Of course economic forecasters are well known for their accuracy; from the IMF to the Treasury we can clearly believe everything they say. Growth rates, employment rates, financial products. That is sarcasm by the way, in case anyone thought that I think economic forecasting has a better success rate than weather forecasting beyond the next 24 hours.

The pleas from foreign leaders feel forced and in some cases (USA) hypocritical. Of course the USA wants the UK in the EU. It means there is some check from the UK on various EU proposals on trade, data and competition so that USA interests are protected.

For EU leaders, if you are so desperate for the UK to remain, Mrs Merkel, why did you not offer a better reform package to the UK when Cameron was running around Europe before the referendum was announced? Actually, why haven’t you reformed the EU thus making the changes needed before a referendum was called?

I cannot abstain. I believe in voting, there should be more of it. I just do not know what is the best decision, for me, my family, the generations to come and my country. I do believe that the EU would be a worse institution without the UK in it but would the UK be worse? I do not just mean economically, but worse in a generic sense. Would the UK be a worse place to live or better?  If someone can give me a clear answer to that and address the population growth issue (not just the immigration issue) I would be grateful.

Whatever the outcome of the vote, I can still write words and occasionally music. The paintings will remain in the galleries. Life will go on. The world will not stop and the 6.5 billion people who live outside the EU (with or without the UK) will continue to have their lives. The population will continue to increase, and the poor and scared will desperately seek a better life wherever that may be.