Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Theresa May's Brexit speech

Today the Prime Minister gave a reasonably detailed view of the Government's position for Brexit.

I have one thing to say: Wow. Just Wow.

The speech ticked every box. It was ambitious but realistic, sound and measured, detailed but not too detailed. It confirmed what I have been saying for a long time, we'll be out of the single market, will have control over our laws, be practically out of the customs union, and have a comprehensive free trade deal.

She even did enough to say that we are prepared to walk away : "no deal is better than a bad deal" and made a little threat about what we can withdraw from.

I was immensely proud and pleased.

Afterwards I started thinking about the post Brexit world and the contrast to what we've had for all of my life.

Imagine not having those horrendous EU summits every few months where we get ganged up on, where we are forced to swallow some horrible new centralisation. Let's forget all those treaties transferring more powers to the EU. Let's forget all the bashing about taking away our rebate. Let's forget having to choose between a bunch of nobodies to run the most powerful bodies, and then have our choices ignored. Let's ignore all the directives. Let's forget about the wasteful French farmers. Let's forget the ratchet driving towards ever closer union.

Let's think of the new trade deals we can do. Let's think of the laws we can enact, the freedoms we can have again. Let's privatise the railways in the way we want. Let's become the embodiment of free trade. Let's import from Africa with no import tariffs helping to reduce poverty. Let us be free.


Monday, 16 January 2017

Theresa May after 6 months verdict

It's now six months since Theresa May became Prime Minister. It has been a time of deep thinking about the EU and a few nuggets of policy about grammar schools and the 'shared society'.

On the EU I think Mrs May has just about got it right. She gave away the broad brush of the deal we will have in her first speech to the Tory conference, control over our borders, control over our laws, and the best trade deal we can do. That means outside the single market, outside the customs union and withe a wide ranging free trade agreement.

In the 6 months since, we've been told that she doesn't know what she wants, she doesn't know how to do it, there's no plan, and that we can have a soft/hard/clean/dirty/scottish/red/white/blue/grey Brexit. She did not want a commentary, and she's just had speculation.

Tomorrow is supposed to be the speech which sets out the direction. It has been widely trailed as saying that we'll be outside the single market, customs union etc....just like she has said all along. I believe she will go as far as saying it but implying it.

She wants to show that Britain is willing to walk away completely from the EU. This is something David Cameron should have done, but he didn't and so he got a crap deal. Mrs May will show we are willing to walk away and the EU will really start to believe it. The EU will then have to look at the numbers and know that it really needs to have a good relationship with Britain. Only then can we make a good deal. Mrs May is playing this just right.

It now looks like we may get the right deal for Britain. Hurray.

On Mrs May's other policies, I think it is too early to say. I like the idea of more grammar schools but it is not a big issue for most people. I like the 'shared society' idea, but then I liked the 'big society', let's see if it turns into something more concrete. I wish she had someone a bit more effective for Prisons, I think Liz Truss is out of her depth. I liked the way Michael Gove was driving reform, and hope someone will pick this up.

I do like the way that she is running the government, A lot less spin, and just getting on with it.

Let's see the speech tomorrow, I hope it will clarify most of Brexit.


Monday, 2 January 2017

Reflections on 2016

2016 will go down as a bit of a crazy year. For some people it will be the worst of years, and for some it will be best of years. For me, it's a bit of both.

First the negative.

There were a lot of celebrity deaths this year. The BBC Radio 4 programme "More or Less" looked into it a little and their conclusions were that maybe there's a lot of famous people who became celebrities along with mass TV ownership in the 60's and 70's, and these celebrities are now reaching the ages when they start to die off. If that is the case then we'll have to get used to this many celebrity deaths.

Of course, if you look at the people who have died there's quite a lot in their 80s and 90s who one could say had a good run, other's who have died earlier than they should have but had lives with drugs and alcohol, and others for which cancer took them too soon. For me, the saddest are Victoria Wood for the works we have now missed from her genius pen and Carrie Fisher who had put all the bad things in the past and was full of the joy of life.

The other negative was Donald Trump being elected as President. I still can't quite believe how someone so unsuitable for the job has landed it. After all the horrible things he said in the campaign to different groups, such as Mexicans, disabled and women he still managed to nail it where it mattered. It goes to show how unfavourable the US finds Hillary Clinton, that she wasn't able to beat him. Maybe we will be surprised and he won't turn out to be a disaster but I wouldn't bet any money on it!

Also we had the BBC losing Bake off to channel 4. Not a huge story, but for me it is a picture of 'Love productions' the independent company behind the baking tent show putting money ahead of a proven formula. I think they have killed the golden goose and it will fizzle out on Channel 4 without Mary, Mel & Sue. A similar thing could be said for the new Top Gear, it just wasn't as good without Jeremy, Richard and James. Camaraderie amongst presenters cannot be guaranteed.

For me, I was disappointed Lewis Hamilton was beaten to the F1 World Championship, not by Nico Rosberg but by uncharacteristic unreliability. I'm happy for Nico and I'm sure the new champ walked away because he knew he would never be able to do it again - it's best to leave asking 'what could have been'.

Now to the positives.

When David Cameron came back from the EU with barely any concessions to put to the British people I was extremely disappointed. I liked the ex-PM, and after hearing his Bloomberg speech in which he put forward a new manifesto for the EU, I thought he had it spot on. He watered it down for the 2015 manifesto, then watered it further for the negotiation and he came back with mush.

In my mind: 'If the EU is not ready to be more flexible to its second largest contributor of funds when the EU is undergoing problems in all areas then it's time we left.' I had already become deeply disillusioned by the EU project, but this was the icing on the Out cake.

I then became a fervent brexiteer. I think we can make a big success of being a beacon of free trade, and demonstrating that we can be a leading nation in the world again. I seriously think the EU is in danger of completely unravelling over the next few years. The Euro is a disaster, the Schengen agreement is showing to be similar after adding so many poorer nations, but there appears to be no appetite to fix it. For every problem the answer is more Europe.

I was disappointed with project fear, which thankfully has not happened - as I expected.

Overall, I'm really happy we have decided to leave and I think we will be proved right in the end, but it has been traumatic to the British psyche and I regret that.

This a positive for the Tory party, as the bearded wonder is still there guaranteeing the next Tory Government. It's bad for the country and disastrous for the Labour party which is now heading towards oblivion.

The Olympics were marvellous, and Team GB were amazing. I watch a lot of it this time and the cycling and gymnastics stood out for me. I loved it.

Roll on 2017.


2016 is over, here comes 2017

Every year I try to predict what will happen, I usually get around half of them right. I have a feeling that when I mark myself for 2016 I'll be lucky to get any predictions correct. What a year with so many surprises.

Ok, now to copy and paste last year's predictions, and see the marks:

  1. Lewis Hamilton will win the F1 World Championship again. 0 points
  2. Sebastien Vettel will be second in the F1 World Championship and will win more races. 0 points
  3. Nico Rosberg will leave Mercedes at the end of the year, and Raikkonen will retire. 0.5 points, Rosberg did leave!
  4. It will be Hilary Clinton vs Marco Rubio for the US presidency. 0.5 points, it was Hilary Clinton but I really though Trump would have been found out!
  5. Marco Rubio will win the presidency. 0 points.
  6. The EU referendum will happen this year with Remain winning by roughly 58% to 42%. 0 points, completely wrong.
  7. The Tories will beat Labour in the local elections by a small margin, with the Lib Dems coming back quite strongly in third. 0.5 point, Lib Dems came bac strongly but Labout just pipped the Tories.
  8. There will be a challenge to Jeremy Corbyn's leadership. 1 point
  9. Douglas Carswell will leave UKIP and stay independent. 0 points
  10. At least 2 MPs will defect from Labour. 0 points

In total that makes 2.5 points which is pretty pathetic compared to last years' 6.75 points, but given the year we've had I'd take it!

Which makes me come to this year's predictions. Let's see how I fair this year.

  1. Lewis Hamilton will regain the F1 World Championship
  2. Daniel Ricciardo will be second in the F1 World Championship and it will get tense with Max Verstappen who'll come third.
  3. Ferrari will fall further into disarray, with Vettel and Raikonnen leaving at the end of the year.
  4. Francois Fillon will beat Marine Le Pen in the second round of the French Presidency, Emmanuel Macron will be pipped in the previous round.
  5. Angela Merkel will remain German Chancellor
  6. There will be another Eurozone crisis following Greece intransigence.
  7. Article 50 will be triggered by the end of March as predicted by the Prime Minister
  8. A rough outline of Brexit will be presented. Not a member of the Single Market, a free trade agreement on goods, no free movement of peoples and a sector-by-sector membership of the customs union (wheich we'll not get).
  9. The parties will stay roughly where they are in the polls, Tories 40%, Labour 27%, Lib Dems 10%, UKIP 9%.
  10. 2 more Labour MPs will either defect or resign.
  11. In the Copeland By-Election Labour will narrowly beat the Tories, by less than 2000 votes. UKIP will be a distant third.


Wednesday, 9 November 2016



Sunday, 6 November 2016

F1 2016: The crunch

We're coming down to the crunch in the 2016 F1 season. There's two races to go and Nico Rosberg is 19 points ahead of Lewis Hamilton.

Nico Rosberg has definitely had his best ever season and won some races decisively. He has had quite a lot of luck, however, as Hamilton has suffered from multiple engine related problems. Two qualifying sessions in the early part of the season put Lewis towards the back of the grid, resulting in Lewis changing multiple engines in Belgium to build up his number of working engines and starting from the back again. Finally, his engine blowing up in Malaysia when he was near the end of the race in the lead and about to regain the lead in the championship was nearly a final straw.

Without those failures, it's hard to see how Rosberg would be in with a chance in this championship.

But, we are where we are.

There are two races left. Rosberg has won the last two Brazilian Grand Prix, and Hamilton has never won there. If history repeats itself and Rosberg wins again then he will be this year's champion. But Brazil has a habit of throwing up some unusual races. Quite often it rains and catches out some of the top players. Also, I'm not sure whether Rosberg has ever won a rain affected race - where Hamilton is a rain supremo.

If Hamilton was to get his first ever Brazilian GP win and Rosberg crashed out or drove defensively to a lower place in the points, like Monaco's race this year, then it will be game on.

Either way, this Brazil Grand Prix will be decisive, I think. If Hamilton comes out on top and back in the game, then I expect him to win the ABu Dhabi GP and win the championship. If Rosberg wins then I expect him to take the Abu Dhabi GP as well as his first championship.

Only if Hamilton wins and Rosberg is second or third, do we go onto to Abu Dhabi with it all still to play for. Hamilton know never to give up, in 2007 he was 17 points ahead of Raikkonen going into the last two races with 20 points available and yet Raikkonen won. Hamilton must be hoping for that misfortune to be cancelled out this time round.

We also don't know whether Rosberg will tighten up in these crunch rounds. So far he has been strong and stable so we should expect not, but you never know.

This time next week some of these questions will be answered.


Thursday, 20 October 2016

Oi thickie. We knew what we voted for?

I'm getting increasingly incensed by being told that I did not know what I was voting for in the EU referendum. I feel like a large number of the political elite are extremely condescending.

Yes, I'm thinking of you Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband. Here is Nick Clegg in full condescension mode.

Apparently not one single voter said to Nick that they were voting leave to 'stop British exporters from their untrammeled access to their largest markets in Europe'. Well, I must say I'm surprised, that's what most people were saying on my high street! No, it's a straw man set up to be ridiculous.

The video shows leaders of both the remain and leave camps saying that leaving the EU would mean leaving the single market. We all knew that we would still be trading with the single market but would not be bound by the wealth of regulations in the rest of our economy.

Most people I know who voted leave knew £350m a week would not be going to the NHS - it was indicative, but wanted to have control over our laws, regulations and borders. Hence, we knew it was going to be a so called 'hard' Brexit.

We felt the EU was going in the wrong direction, and had been for a quarter of a century, and repeated attempts to change direction were rebuffed.

They are treating us like we are stupid, but

We knew what we were voting for - you thickie

Of course, Nick Clegg knows that most people did know what they were voting for. He is not thick, I just said that for effect. Like he does.

He is pushing for votes on various aspects of Brexit. The more votes the better. He wants to frustrate the process at all stage. He gives not one damn about democracy. The Lib Dem 2005 manifesto actually proposed an in/out referendum but he forgot about this when it became inconvenient.

There will be so many different ways in which Parliament will be pushed for votes, the Government is going to have to be vigilant.

I hope that Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband lose their seats at the next election. Let's show them what democracy is all about.


Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Free Trade Agreements, access and membership of the Single Market

Now that we have made the momentous decision to leave the EU, we are constantly asking ourselves what does Brexit look like?

In much the same way as people get confused about the difference between debt and deficit, there is a great deal of confusion between free trade agreements, membership and access of the single market. I thought I might give you what I understand to be the differences, and what I think we should aim for.

Firstly, free trade agreements are generally agreements between two countries in which they agree not to impose tariffs (a tax) on imported goods and services. This may be across the board or only on goods, or in certain sectors of the economy. Many countries have these and there are some cases where there is a free trade agreement between a country and the EU. Within the EU we are in effect in a free trade agreement with the other 27 nations of the EU.

What is the EU single market? It is a customs union in which all members agree not to impose import tariffs, i.e. a free trade agreement between the 28 nations including ourselves.

Is that all? No. The single market is more than that. When you sell goods into the US the goods you sell must adhere to US regulations, likewise with the EU. The Single Market makes it so that every country within the EU has the same regulations, so as a member you know that if you make something for France it will also be good enough for Germany. Being a member of the Single Market means that you agree to adhere to all the EU regulations for all your goods and services (though the single market in services is not yet harmonized).

That sounds great, so we must have access to the single market? Yes, of course we must have access to the single market - but that's not really in question. The US has access to the single market, Western Samoa has access to the single market. Access just means that you are able to sell into the single market - well you can as long as the goods you sell adhere to EU regulations, just like with the US.

So what's the confusion? Some politicians and commentators confuse access to the single market with membership of the single market. We will have access, but whether we are a member is the crux.

It sounds good to be a member of the single market, so why would we not want to be? Those EU regulations which we need to adhere to, we also need to adhere to them for any goods which we don't intend to export to the EU. In fact around 95% of our economy does not export, and some of this regulation is very heavy handed. We could have lighter British regulation for all our economy, and then apply EU regulations for only those exporting to the EU.

Any other drawbacks on being a member? Yes. The EU has made it so that the single market negotiates with other countries on free trade agreements as a Block, which is why we have not been able to have FTA's with like minded countries like the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and tigers such as India and China. Being outside, we can push ahead with new FTA's.

Furthermore as a custom's union, the single market does impose import tariffs on external countries, even if the UK does not wish to. Agricultural goods from Africa are cheaper, but with tariffs are more expensive. This is to protect inefficient french farmers and the common agricultural policy. Outside the single market we can drop those tariffs and get cheaper food from Africa which will help us and help Africa.

Also the EU single market membership holds that free movement of peoples is a pre-requisite which is why immigration has become an issue and, unless the EU becomes more flexible, the reason why we will have to stop being members.

The way in which Theresa May has set up the new departments, one for Brexit and an International
Trade seems to infer that we will have to stop being members of the single market (otherwise we could not negotiate FTA's).

I would bet my bottom dollar on not being members of the single market but having a free trade agreement with the single market in all areas which are already covered.

Hope that explains.