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Brexit

BrexitThis page comes with a 'health warning'

It's about a national issue outside our normal sphere - its about 'Brexit'.

The last time we did something like this ('Corrupting Influence' in 2010) we upset some of our readers by including strong personal opinions on national topics rather than our usual analysis of local matters.

We said then we would provide a warning before future articles expressing strong personal opinions.

So we ask our readers to note the warning we now give - and suggest those of a sensitive or 'Brexit remaining' disposition might want to skip this article.

Our views on Brexit will probably seem extreme to some folk.

But to us, some of the people who are adamant about being part of the EU seem to have extreme views.

The real point about this is that neither 'side' in this debate is right or wrong, they are simply different views.

Everyone is entitled to come to the view they hold, but we would say that hearing the views of others - even those with whom you disagree - is not always a bad thing.

So with the warning over, we begin.


SYNOPSIS
We start with a look at some factors that might be at The Root of the Brexit trouble. Next we look at the Open Letter From Mrs May, and then at Our Open Reply to it.

Next we look at What happened when Mrs May became Prime Minister and at some of the principles underpinning why we think this is a bad agreement, before moving on to consider The Deal in Practice and looking at Some of the issues concerning law and the ECJ.

Finally we look at what we think of A 'Hard Brexit' and what might happen with the looming vote in Parliament.

Finally we offer a Final Thought about an underlying dissatisfaction that we've not heard discussed a lot, but which is for us, and might for others, be  one of the drivers of the harder end of the 'Brexiteer' movement.

After publication we had more comments from readers than we usually receive. They were both for and against, short and long. We've reproduced all the responses in full, but without attributing them. In one or two cases we've removed personal data and replaced it by (......).


 WHAT'S AT THE ROOT OF ALL THE TROUBLE

Well, we think it's a bit like the foxhunting issue. There are almost as many shades of opinion as to what is 'right' or 'wrong' with Brexit as there are people.

Fundamentally, we think it's about what sort of 'National Culture' we want the UK to have going forward.

It's a battle for the soul of what sort of country we want to be.

And at the heart of this matter is how much should be left to individuals to provide and fend for themselves, versus how much a Government should take responsibility for people's lives.

It's a combination of how authoritarian or liberal our governing body should be, and where it sits on the economic axis between extreme state control and the extreme free market

The traditional UK political parties revolve around these differences. But occasionally, a subject like abortion, or foxhunting - and now Brexit - evokes very strong views that transcend the norms of political parties to emerge as an 'issue' with which our national psyche has to deal.

At this point in our history, and because of Brexit, the main political parties are deeply split - just as much as the people who elected them are.

We have not yet reached 'civil war' with Brexit, but there are views on either side that are almost as strongly held as those in the conflict between Roundheads and Cavaliers.

Political groupings - and even families - are deeply split in their views.

Whilst generalisations are rarely accurate, to our way of thinking, the main camps seem to group together into what might be the difference between the nature of folk that live in the countryside and the nature of folk that live in cities.

We think it's to do with a cultural difference that emerges between those living more isolated lives in smaller communities - where personal independence is highly valued,  and self-reliance is required (because you can't even see your neighbours), and those who seek the culture of anonymity amongst the masses (because they don't want to be known by their neighbours), and where inter-dependent living - in some cases cheek by jowl - in a large conurbation, is unavoidable.

This divergence often transcribed to shorthand as populist (or disaffected) vs. metropolitan

But there are other overlying causes.

One is to do with attainment. More highly qualified individuals with better paying jobs, tend to gravitate toward the 'remaining' end of the spectrum, whilst lower attainers with less income gravitate to the harder end of Brexit.

And there's yet another overlay in that people of a more (small l) liberal persuasion are more likely to be 'remain' supporters, whilst those who support or believe in an authoritarian regime (whether politically left or right), will often gravitate to leaving.

There are more overlays too. Young (remainers) vs. older (Brexiteers). The list of overlays goes on and on.

So when you position these layers over each other, it's no wonder that there is an enormous spectrum of views across the UK.

And within that matrix of factors, wherever a particular characteristic dominates - and here we might contrast the (strongly Leave) more economically deprived areas of the North East with the (strongly Remain) wealthier parts of London - a clear majority for one sort of Brexit or another arises.

What we *can* take from this - and it isn't much - is that no-one has a right or wrong answer to what should happen.

We can all only believe what seems right to us.

So when Mr Cameron asked the people of the UK to decide whether we should stay in the EU or leave it, the people said what they believed.

And there were more leavers than remainers.

The populist 'Roundheads' had won the day.

But as in the English Civil war - where the Roundhead 'victory' only lasted for about ten years - if we don't make a clean break from the EU, matters will drag on for as long as the EU itself, and the UK's recalcitrant remainers, doggedly fight a rearguard action to subvert the expressed will of the majority of Britons.

So for lots of reasons, we think it has to be a 'Hard Brexit' and it needs to be done quickly.

 THE OPEN LETTER FROM MRS. MAY

That nice Mrs May has written an open letter to everyone in the UK.

In it, she sets out how she believes she has negotiated a good 'deal' with the EU.

She believes what she has negotiated is in the national interest (although she does not define what that might be)

She says we take back control of our money, and end vast annual payments to the EU. This means we can have more of our own money to spend on the NHS or whatever.

She also says it will end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK

Worst of all, is her assertion that we will be an independent coastal state with full control over our waters. (We are a coastal nation, not a state, and there's no certainty we will have full control as we will show later)

She says it offers a bright future with the ability to sign trade deals with other countries and growing markets.

She wants people to 'get behind' the 'deal' she has negotiated.


We don't doubt the strength of her character and her courage.

We saw both of those demonstrated when she was Home Secretary and she faced down the Police Federation at its annual conference - which she stunned with a vow to break its power.

But irrespective of her character and courage, we won't be getting behind her deal.

To our genuine sadness - after believing what she said when she became Prime Minister and being sadly let down since - we are happy to get behind calls for her to stand aside and have someone who believes that the future of this country lies outside the EU to take over the reins.

To explain why, we thought we'd return her compliment, and send an open letter to her.

 AN OPEN LETTER TO MRS MAY

Dear Mrs May

Thank you for your letter of 24th November inviting us to get behind the 'deal' you have agreed with the EU regarding the preliminary terms under which we will exit our membership of this pan-national organisation.

Sadly we cannot agree to provide the support you ask, and will now explain why.

 The Background

We saw what a bad idea this European construct was from the beginning.

We voted not to join the Common Market in 1973 when Prime Minister of the day Ted Heath lied to us about its real purpose.

We voted not to remain within it in the subsequent referendum of 1975, in which the Prime Minister Harold Wilson asked if we wanted to remain members of the EEC.

We were on the minority side of both those votes - but we accepted the will of the majority. Never happily, it has to be said, but we did accept the result.

However, for what he did to the fishermen of this nation, this island people, we would have been happy to see Edward Heath charged with treason rather than be honoured.

He abandoned British fishermen and threw open our national territorial waters to foreign vessels.

And that's the same British fishermen who, with other small scale sailors, crossed the English Channel to Dunkirk to support our servicemen who fought to liberate much of Europe from tyranny.

British fishermen deserved better.

Much better.

At the time Edward Heath lied to us, we were told (and most people thought) we were simply joining a 'Common Market.' A trading club. We were not told about the real aim of 'ever closer union' and relinquishing our national sovereignty until much later.

We recognise the unspoken and underlying reason for the European Project was always the laudable aim of removing the risk of future wars between nations.

But the Great EU Plan set about this by removing all traces of nationhood and national identity. It made people within Europe's 'borders' so intertwined and dependent on each other that never again would nation go to war with nation. It sought to create a huge metropolitan entity full of 'Europeans'.

It was conquest by consent, using economics to trump culture, and that was always going to fail.

Only a few perceptive individuals foresaw where this would lead, and in this regard, we're grateful to those whose books informed our own growing realisation of it, most notably Peter Hitchin's "The Abolition of Britain" which set matters out very clearly.

He and others showed the inevitability with which the constraining and suffocating effect of the EU's unification policy would be self-destructing.

It's conception was beyond human scale and would lead to revolt and uprising.

The United Kingdom has generally adopted a more civilised approach to its disentanglement from Europe. But even so, we have seen growth of some nationalism here, and growth on even larger scale via right wing politicians and parties in parts of continental Europe. This is a direct result and consequence of the suppression and suffocation of national identity.

If the EU continues on its present trajectory, this 'European peasants revolt' will only get worse, and we will be better-off well away from it.

So for all those reasons, we were delighted that the UK voted - in the biggest ever electoral event in our history - to leave the EU.

We were encouraged by early Government pronouncements, especially with Mrs May being a former 'Remain' voter.

Her famous quote of "Brexit means Brexit" whilst saying nothing of substance, did appear to respect the result of the referendum.

Her other mantra of "No deal is better than a bad deal" also found favour with us.

Even better were the undertakings she gave to the nation in her major Lancaster House speech in 2017.

But sadly, almost immediately, the trouble began.

As things have turned out, what we can't yet  tell is whether,  like Edward Heath in 1773,  she knowingly offering us a false prospectus for leaving, and intended all along to stay as tightly integrated to the EU as she could get away with, or whether it's simply that she had bad advisers, and has taken bad decisions.

Mrs May is no stranger to embracing bad advisers. In our view it was her acceptance of the advice of her last (Parliamentary) Special Advisers that caused her very significantly reduced her majority at the snap election soon after she took office.

The utter stupidity of introducing what opposition politicians dubbed the 'Dementia Tax' with people having to sell their home to go into care, and at the same time planning to means test the winter fuel allowance, and ending the 'triple lock' on pension payment was an absolute cert of a vote loser if ever there was one.

It attacked the very people who were most likely to vote Conservative.

It was a sharp reminder of how the arrogance of electoral infallibility brings down the mighty.

So maybe all of this has all just been about her getting bad advice as to how to go about Brexit.

 THERESA MAY TAKES THE REINS

Her first mistake was a huge and a strategic mistake.

Instead of announcing we would leave on a set date and beginning to speak with the EU and countries around the world about what sort of trading, security and co-operative relationship we might have with them in the future, Mrs May decided - or was advised - to sign up to Article 50.

Article 50 - as its very name shows - is, of course, European legislation.

It immediately put the EU, and not the UK, in charge of events and timetables.

Triggering Article 50 meant the Brexit agreement would be, and has been, written in, and by, Brussels.

Because it signed up to Article 50, the UK Government implicitly accepted the EU's requirement to negotiate the terms of withdrawal first - before anything else - including, chiefly

  • How much we would pay (the so called 'divorce'bill of about £39 Billion) every year for several years.
  • Citizens rights - what would happen to EU and UK residents after Brexit
  • The North/South border in Ireland where, in order to hit the deadline last December, the UK caved in to accepting an unworkable backstop arrangement that was insisted upon by the EU (we think in cahoots with southern Ireland) and which, in effect, earmarks two parts of the UK for different treatment in a post-Brexit regime.

The UK said last December that no UK Government could ever accept that the backstop proposals would come into play, and they only agreed to it on the basis that it would never be used.

Fools

Guess what. This tuppeny-hapeny non-problem became the most troublesome thing in the whole of the negotiations.

That's because the EU side had designed it to be so. It was a man (or rather in our case a woman) trap into which we rushed headlong in order to say we had a reached an agreement on the other matters for withdrawal.

And exactly the same thing is about to be repeated with the so called 'Political Declaration' that is associated with the draft agreement

This is the EU's 'Backstop Mk.2' - and it is set to cause even more trouble than the Irish border issue as soon as we start to negotiate terms on a trade agreement.

We should have walked away last December.

The present agreement includes a wholly useless and non binding 'Political Declaration' which has no real meaning but is intended (once again) to hoodwink the British people into a false sense of trust and security.

Crucially, and very misguidedly, we allowed the EU to separate and agree these matters first, accepting that before even considering matters such as trading arrangements, security, and so on. these matters had to be agreed.

So it is that two years on since the referendum, we have still only reached a draft agreement with the EU on the terms of our withdrawal that Mrs May is now avidly promoting like Johnny NoMates.

Furthermore, the draft agreement requires the Government to agree to a two year period after we leave in March 2019

During this period we *should* have been *implementing* the measures needed to make the trade agreement work.

But that quickly turned into a 'Transition Period' which has now become time that will be used to negotiate the terms of a trade agreement, not to implement it!

And that phase won't end until either 2020 or 2022 or later - and it could go on to the end of the century.

And during this time, two Secretaries of State - who were supposedly in charge of Brexit negotiations - have been consistently undermined by Mrs May's ardently Europhile civil servant Oliver Robbins, to whom she has foolishly entrusted the fate of the nation.

Not unexpectedly for an arch-remainer, Mr Robbins has delivered, and Mrs May is now trying to hawk, the very antithesis of what those - like us - who strongly supported a rapid and clean break exit from the EU, wanted.

Instead of being in a position of strength, on our present trajectory, we have been (and will continue to be), subservient to the driving force of the EU - whose Article 50 continues to set the basis for our departure.

And despite all the woolly words in the utterly useless 'Political Declaration' no-one should be under the illusion that these mean anything of significance.

If we go beyond the current 'Olly's Folly' draft agreement with Brussels, the next stage of the 'negotiations' (chiefly the trade arrangements) will make what's happened so far seem like a walk in the park.

It's very likely that, as part of the further price we will have pay for a trade deal, we will almost certainly see France and Spain (and others) claiming fishing rights within our territorial waters, and Spain laying additional claims to Gibraltar, and whoever else thinks they can muscle in and give the UK a kicking in order to further their own national advantage.

 

So NO! Mrs May. Not even in principle, will we be supporting the draft agreement you are now hawking around the country with the vigour of a snake oil salesman in a bid to hoodwink the British people.

The Secretaries of State you personally selected to negotiate on our behalf, and who probably came to understand the issues better than many, have both resigned on this matter. The Foreign Secretary you personally selected has done the same. Senior Cabinet ministers have done likewise.

These are all the people who will know most about what has been happening and they can't agree with you.

You can't even convince your own party and almost certainly will not convince Parliament itself to agree your 'deal'.

And that's irrespective of how many honours and seats in the House of Lords you dish out.

And the effort,   the media blitz,   and the arm twisting of business and others - such as the useless, busted-flush Governor of the Bank of England - to resurrect 'Project Fear' again in the hope of frightening the British People - the British People who, of all the nations on earth, are least likely to bow to threats - in the hope that they will threaten MPs of all parties - who will not vote for what you have proposed - into doing so is, frankly, beneath what should be the dignity of a British Prime Minister

It is time for you to resign as leader of your party.

 THE DEAL IN PRACTICE.

So far we've only looked at the proposed agreement in principle.

When you get to the detail, the paucity of benefit to the UK is self evident.

In this regard, we're grateful to one of our readers who provided us with a printed copy of an article which we think might originate from a 'Spectator' gossip columnist going under the name of 'Steerpike.'

(We think that name might originate from a fictional character in Mervyn Peake's novels 'Titus Groan' and 'Gormenghast').

Readers wanting to see the full story can follow this link to the 'Steerpike' article in the Online Spectator (which requires payment to read it in full).

Where to begin?

We'll, start with Article 7 of the Draft EU Agreement that Mrs May wants us to sign up to. It includes the words

'...all references to 'Member States' and competent authorities of Member States.... shall be read as including the United Kingdom'

So the UK will be bound by EU laws at least during the transition period.

But this transition period can be made to last forever. .

The Transition Period could last more or less indefinitely (It's actually to a defined date sometime in this century - up to 31 December 20XX) as set out in Article 132)

So what Mrs May calls Brexit could (and might), in fact be a transition period plus an extension period for the remainder of this century, as long as we are willing to pay for it.

Even if a trading agreement is reached with the EU within the supposed two year transition period, we will still have signed up to clauses regarding VAT and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice for a further eight years.

Some clauses (e.g. Article 39) have quite literally a 'lifetime' duration.

And if the UK were to default on the transition, we go into the EU's Mk. 2 Backstop and we must remain in the Customs Union and, most probably the EU's Single Market as well.

So much for the Lancaster House undertakings.

And all the while we continue paying for the pleasure.

We can only leave the transition period positively by accepting an agreement that satisfies the EU and its other member states.

It follows that, like the Irish border now, the EU will have no incentive and no need to reach an agreement with us. The longer it prevaricates, the more of our money it gets and the less of a say we have.

And all the while, the European Court of Justice remains sovereign over our Parliament.

But the worst of all is that by approving this draft EU Agreement, we also agree to sign away the rights we would have under international law to walk away unilaterally.

We can do that now, but we won't be able to do it if Theresa May's 'deal' is signed off in Parliament.

And in this state, whilst continuing to pay in, we will have no Members of the European Parliament, no Commissioners, and no European Court of Justice Judges. And we are excluded from attending European Summits.

We would become Jacob Reece-Mogg's 'Vassal State'

It's trrue that some of these provisions only apply for the 'Transition Period' but, as we have seen, it is possible that could last until December 2099, so it's only safe to assume they also could apply until that time.

When the 'Irish Backstop' was included in the agreement, no-one thought it would ever be needed, and look where that got us.

That Mrs Eileen Foster from the DUP is furious, and absolutely won't have anything to do with this 'deal'

She says that even if the bulk of the UK successfully negotiate a trade deal with the EU, and we were to leave successfully, Mrs May's draft agreement will forever keep Northern Ireland within the EU's jurisdiction for VAT.

It will prevent the Assembly from ever providing state aid. The Customs Union rules will continue to apply to Northern Ireland, and there would be checks taking place between the UK and Northern Ireland.

And if the UK and the EU fail to come to an agreement, then the UK *has agreed to put itself in that same position* if we sign up to the draft EU's agreement.

None of this is acceptable to Mrs Foster, and it is the opposite of what Mrs May undertook to deliver.

Based on Mrs Foster's performance to date, we think we'd rather have her doing the Brexit talks than Theresa May.

At least she stands up for her principles.

 THEN THERE'S THE LAW.

The EU's Article 4.1 says:

"The provisions of this Agreement and the provisions of Union law made applicable by this Agreement shall produce in respect of and in the United Kingdom the same legal effects as those which they produce within the Union and its Member States."

What this means is that the European Court of Justice remains the highest Court to govern the entire agreement

And adding salt to the wound Article 4.2 says

"The United Kingdom shall ensure compliance with paragraph 1, including as regards the required powers of its judicial and administrative authorities to disapply inconsistent or incompatible domestic provisions, through domestic primary legislation."

This orders our courts to recognise the ECJ's supremacy, and Article 4 empowers both residents and businesses to use the European Court of Justice.

Still on this topic, Article 87 gives the ECJ jurisdiction over what happens if we 'fail to fulfil an obligation' vis:

"If the European Commission considers that the United Kingdom has failed to fulfil an obligation under the Treaties or under Part Four of this Agreement before the end of the transition period, the European Commission may, within 4 years after the end of the transition period, bring the matter before the Court of Justice of the European Union in accordance with the requirements laid down in Article 258 TFEU or the second subparagraph of Article 108(2) TFEU, as the case may be. The Court of Justice of the European Union shall have jurisdiction over such cases."

And remember, that transition period could last to 2099 if we do not agree a trade arrangement to our taste, or if the EU were to simply stonewall again - as it did with the Irish backstop in these negotiations.

Article 158 empowers the ECJ's jurisdiction to last 8 years after the end of the Transition period.

Article 6 says the UK will be bound by any (as yet unknown) future changes in EU law, as well as the laws that exist today.

Article 168 says that any disputes arising from the draft agreement may only be decided under EU law. This prevents the UK from acting under International law. It is complete madness to agree to this.

Article 51 says we must obey the EU's laws on VAT for the transition period (which in theory could run to the end of the century), AND for five years after the transition period ends.

Not being able to set the UK's own rate of VAT prevents us from being a more attractive country to buy from, and it prevents us making some things (like the personal female hygiene products for example) zero rated as many here have called for. That's not control of our money.

A minor but irritating point arises in Article 104. The agreement requires us to agree never to tax EU officials who are based here (think Peter Mandleson or Neil Kinnock) on their EU Pensions. It means that the EU and its employees are immune to our tax laws

The UK will also be bound to EU foreign policy. Article129 says

"....during the transition period, the United Kingdom shall be bound by the obligations stemming from the international agreements concluded by the Union, by Member States acting on its behalf, or by the Union and its Member States acting jointly"

As we have seen, the transition period under this agreement could last for a very long time.

The EU will continue to set rules for UK intellectual property law (Article 54 onward).

Articles 75 to 78 binds us to the EU's procurement rules so we may not seek better supply deals elsewhere.

Another really bad one is Article 93

"New State aid and European Anti-Fraud Office procedures

1. In respect of aid granted before the end of the transition period, for a period of 4 years after the end of the transition period, the European Commission shall be competent to initiate new administrative procedures on State aid governed by Regulation (EU) 2015/1589 concerning the United Kingdom."

This Article prevents the UK from doing things like re-nationalising the railways or financially supporting important UK companies until a future trade agreement is signed - and even if that happens, we must wait another four years to be able to do so.

And there are a number of measures in the draft agreement that set out what we will be required to pay during the transition period - from which we may not unilaterally walk away - and which could last up to the year 2100.

There is a lot more to complain about, but we've probably said enough already.

 A HARD BREXIT

So what's with a 'hard' Brexit - otherwise known as a 'No Deal'

Remainers have variously called it 'falling off the cliff' or 'crashing out with no deal'  and they have, in droves, said it will be 'a disater' and 'a catastrophe' if it happened.

We regard it as nothing of the sort.

It's actually the default position in UK law if Parliament fails to support the agreement that Theresa May has brought back from Brussels.

If the vote to support the draft agreement fails, as many predict will happen, then as we understand it, constitutionally and legally speaking, there are only two possible outcomes.

The first is that we default to the 'No Deal' exit from the European Union as set out in UK law.

This would put the country in more or less the same position as we were before we joined the Common Market. And we seem to remember that life went on as usual for us under those terms, as it had done for centuries before.

In advance of reaching agreements with other nations, we would trade with the rest of the world with whom we might want to do business (or who might want to do business with us) on internationally recognised terms set by the World Trade Organisation ( what's called 'WTO Rules')

Crucially this would mean that the UK could set its own tariffs, VAT and duty rules. They could be set to make our products more attractive to foreign buyers and thus promote British exports, increasing the national income.

At present, because we are within the EU, we may not do this because 'Europe' set the rates for all the member countries.

So we're not afraid of reverting to our international status before we joined the club.

We, (and others) might argue this is what the Referendum question was all about in the first place, and it was also what was described in the leaflet sent to every household to advise them what would happen with a yes or no vote in the referendum.

There would undoubtedly be some disruption to our lives with only a very short time to prepare to revert to International trading arrangements, and Government would need to focus intently on making arrangements as quickly as possible to limit such disruption.

(That said, we're told that quite a bit of preparation has already been done, both here and abroad and, for example, one of our readers recently returning from Spain spoke of the banks of new fingerprint and passport readers that were standing ready for use after Brexit.

But as with any change in a national trading relationship, there will be some winners and some losers in the event of a 'no-deal' exit, but life, as we know it, will continue.

The second possible outcome is that Mrs May decides to lead her government and (she would hope), Parliament, in a vote to disregard the referendum result and for the UK to remain in the EU as though noting had happened. She could do this. And we wouldn't altogether rule it out.

Initially we think her Government's leaked and implied threat to do just this is nothing more than yet another arm of the 'Project Fear' tactic that is being deployed at the present time.

But if, as expected, she loses the vote in Parliament, and she thinks remaining in the EU is more important than the party she leads, it is a course that is open to her.

It's difficult to say whether she would have the nerve to do so, because it would surely destroy the party she leads.

And if she took this route, somewhere around half the country would never vote for anything calling itself the Conservative party again.

Even worse, in the ensuing political vacuum, all manner of authoritarian and nationalist groups would be vying for populist votes.

With so many fervent and angry people being scorned, if their referendum vote is discounted, it's also possible that civil unrest would not be out of the question.

Those are the only two outcomes.

But within each of them lies scope for Parliament to introduce new legislation to reverse or override the Act that put Article 50 in place.

That's why there is so much confusion at present.

The (probably unexpected) Referendum result was a clear decision to end our membership of the European Union.

The country remains deeply split on this but with a majority (according to the most recent poll)  still in favour of leaving.

But those who will vote on it in Parliament (whose background and other factors naturally trend more toward the 'metropolitan' perspective) undoubtedly favour remaining.

It will be the most important vote this country has taken in two generations.

And as we said at the outset, fundamentally, it's a battle for the soul of what sort of country we want to be in the future.

 A FINAL THOUGHT

Amongst all the arguments about sovereignty and about economics there is another aspect that is rarely discussed, but which we think is, at least in part, an unseen elephant in the room.

There are those who believe that the UK is becoming like a locked-up computer, slowly but inexorably crawling toward the 'Blue Screen of Death' that Windows displays just before the whole operating system fails.

Service failure can take many forms.

Public services for example are, for the most part a thing of the past. Hardly any service works properly any more. Phones are no longer answered within the widely adopted 'three rings' that was once the norm. Getting a reply at all is quite an achievement these days.

Large numbers of businesses have de-skilled their front offices to the point where calling in person is pointless. Banks have deliberately reduced counter staff so as to make people wait in long queues in the hope of 'persuading' them to use the self-service machines installed inside the bank. Even the so called 'convenience' neighbourhood shops have more self service tills than staffed checkouts.

Politicians and councillors are more worried about being in power than delivering services.

Local newspapers have hardly any experienced reporters any more. Their parent companies have paid so much for additional titles in a bid to monopolise news delivery over great swathes of the country, that for some, their combined advertising revenue isn't even enough to cover the debt repayments on the loans they took out to buy the additional titles in the first place. So there's nothing left to pay the experienced staff who have now almost all gone, and fewer, younger, cheaper ones have taken their place. Under unreasonable time pressures, these reporters are routinely required to regurgitate stultifyingly patronising and corporately sanitised media releases as though they were news.

Across the UK, accuracy has been sacrificed on the altar of cost effectiveness. Corporate greed rules. Local authority functions are in crisis. Most UK roads aren't winter salted any more, and pavement salting has been abandoned altogether - causing falls that cost the NHS more, and Highway Authorities less. Councils are transforming into shysters and con artists who use confusing road layouts and other myriads of devices to trap the unwary into paying fixed penalty notices, and who scheme and compete with each other to find new and innovative ways to take money from an unsuspecting and overly trusting electorate that hasn't yet recognised the transformation that is taking place.

And don't even get us started on a Police force that spends 19% of their time dealing with criminal activity, and 46% of their time is dealing with 'mental health issues', or private sector security companies that billed the Ministry of Justice for applying electronic tags to ex-offenders who were no longer being tagged, who were in prison, or who were dead. And on the prison service that is no longer fit for purpose, and Private Finance schemes that tie up and milk the unwary signatories into paying grossly over the odds. The list is endless

As we were told this week,  putting a tiny 'passing loop' into the South Fylde railway line has been estimated to cost £60 million. Yes really.

Those who remember the UK in times of national progress, of innovation, of far less restriction can readily identify how the EU had induced national constipation.

And, just like a computer that has 'frozen', the time has come for our country to have a cathartic pressing of its re-boot button to clear out all the blubbery regulations and soporific, easy complacency, in order to release our inherent national spirit of innovation and invention, and to create the conditions under which individuals are released into a willingness to be part of a nation on a human scale, and one that is on the move.

Like Doctor Who - the United Kingdom needs regenerating.

And a clean Brexit would make a very good start toward that .

 UPDATE: 1 to 11 December 2018

When we publish an article, we do get occasional feedback - usually one or two emails - sometimes agreeing, sometimes not, often adding to our information about what we have written - and so on.  This time we had ten responses in very quick order.

We think it shows that, like us, feelings are running high and lots of people are engaged in the debate. That can only be good. One of our readers said

"I would imagine you'll get quite a few direct responses to this article, for and against. Perhaps you should publish them?"

As ever, and simply in only the order in which the 18 emails arrived with us, after the Brexit article, we're happy to listen to our readers and let others share their views....


  • "Please email me when a new article appears."


  • "Having voted REMAIN, it would be wrong of me to intrude on personal grief. For that reason, I leave it for the Brexiteers to sort out. Don't be too hard on Mrs May. She's made Corbyn electable: something the Labour Party could never do."


  • "You make some good points in your article, and I can even agree with some of them, and perhaps with a more detailed reading, most of them. Nevertheless, like most brexiteers, I remain unrepentant, just with an opposite view.

    You and others of like opinion may yet get your hard Brexit, I doubt it because we are led to believe by the media - generally biased in favour of remain I'm sure you would regard - report that parliament has no stomach for a hard exit. I suggest that you hang onto your strong views and hopes and I believe the final outcome will be nobody being satisfied, hence the best compromise of all - done in the best British tradition!"


  • "Please delete me from your contact list."


  • "Please subscribe me to counterbalance"


  • "Many thanks for this information. I agree, I think, with your conclusion that we need a new start here in the UK. I am very concerned that a new start under the control of local or national Tory governance would be an unmitigated disaster in terms of Human Rights, the Environment, the NHS, the Welfare System, policing and virtually everything else!"


  • "That’s an amazing article on Brexit....you certainly pulled the wool away from my eyes. Thank you."


  • "Really appreciate your thoughts on local matters, particularly fracking, but this Brexit rant really jumps the shark. As soon as you brought Dunkirk into it I could see where it was heading!

    "the British People who, of all the nations on earth, are least likely to bow to threats" - this kind of chest-beating rhetoric helps no-one. World War 2 ended a long time ago. Most of the people who fill the Daily Mail comments threads with this jingoistic nonsense weren't even alive when the war ended. I'm as proud of my country as any Russian, Australian, Nigerian etc would be of theirs, but I don't subscribe to the view that we are intrinsically better or braver than them.

    You call the Bank of England's impact assessments 'Project Fear'. Whilst I don't necessarily think 'growth' should be the be-all and end-all goal of modern life (quality of life is far more important) I don't doubt these are genuinely made estimates by an organisation full of economic experts.

    The same 'project fear' label is being trotted out now whenever a professional body, such as the BMA and the NHS Providers group recently, flags up likely problems. This dismissal of experts is part of the dumbing and shutting down of our country that I would add to your list at the end.

    That 'A Final Thought' section at the end is a long list of complaints about modern Britain that are completely unrelated to us being in the EU. Many of those issues are down to decisions made by our own parliament, cutting funding to the bone. I agree with all of them but there is no connection with Brexit whatsoever.

    BTW, I also hope they vote May's dreadful deal down but as one of the 48.11% who didn't vote to leave the EU.

    Anyway, all the best. Keep up the good work holding our local representatives to account!"


  • "Fully agree HARD BREXIT. Another SUPERB COUNTERBALANCE. Well done."


  • "Please would you kindly unsubscribe us"


  • "Your latest, Brexit, is very much appreciated and in my humble opinion, spot on - thank you."


  • An interesting and provocative read, but I really must take issue with you regarding your comments about state aid and re-nationalisation.

    How many EU countries have nationalised railways? You can start with SNCF - the clue is in the name ;-)

    And then we have Deutsche Bahn AG, a private joint-stock company (AG), with the Federal Republic of Germany being its single shareholder.

    If EU state aid rules prevented public ownership of utilities or companies then surely Network Rail could not exist under EU law. But it does.

    I could, of course, go on ….

    I also am at a bit of a loss as to why you don’t believe there is a third possible outcome which is a further sounding of opinion (yes a further referendum) based on the huge amount of information we all now have available on the likely impacts. For me that would be a necessary and logical check in a properly democratic society. If it were to deliver a further decision for Brexit we would all have to get behind that, but the current situation is pretty unsatisfactory. If your position on a hard Brexit is as logical as you maintain such a further referendum should hold no fears for you and will only serve to unite the country behind what you feel has to be done. Won’t it? :-)

    And I do wish I could share your optimism that the "British Disease" could be cured by Brexit. Remind me - what was Britain called when I was growing up in the 1960s and 70s - something about "the sick man of Europe" if I remember correctly. We joined the EU to help cure that sickness didn’t we?

    We do at least agree that Theresa May’s deal hasn’t got a snowball’s chance in Hell.


  • The next view has been edited to remove personal data (.....)

  • When the dust settles a bit, say three or four years, there will be some scores to settle re accountability on those who have led the Brexit debate. ......There’s no such thing as a “clean Brexit”.


  • The next view has been edited to remove personal data (.....)

  • If you don’t mind me saying, I am somewhat surprised by what I have heard, in terms of what the media glibly refer to as ‘Brexit’. ....... I find it difficult to comprehend the lack of understanding of the implications of leaving the EU. After all, collaboration between European governments brought us Jaguar, Tornado, Typhoon and Airbus. All of these projects have brought substantial amounts of revenue into the Treasury, while providing employment for hundreds of thousands of families. Most importantly, they are project that brought substantial wealth to the Fylde Coast and are projects that no British government could have afforded without collaboration.

    Those in favour of leaving the EU, have perhaps lost sight of the global financial crisis, that began in Lehman Brothers in New York, but which rapidly caused a downdraft in all of the major western economies. Without the security of easy trade with our nearest and biggest trading bloc, then UK plc would have suffered far worse. That is because we would simply have been ignored by major economies such as the United States, who had their own downdrafts to cope with.

    Make no bones about the US. They are – understandably perhaps? – only interested in themselves; as Obama and Trump have pointed out. But the US is the word’s biggest economy. We are not. Being part of a bigger union has afforded a great deal of protection that many do not see. But to argue against the old adage: ‘united we stand, divided we fall’ is just plain silly. Sadly, politicians have lied to the people. They have created a view that not only distorts reality, it actually perverts the truth. You see, Britain has a marvellous flag, but that doesn’t put food on the table. That fact is that this government has borrowed more money than any other in history, but we see falling police numbers, nurses and doctors leaving the NHS for their countries of origin while, all the time, greater demands are made on the taxpayer in return for less and less.

    In attempting to be brief, I have brought together a number of issues. Some might accuse me of conflating them. That would make my point entirely, because that is the reality of the many complexities that are inextricably linked and, therefore, intertwined.

    I received my pension statement ..... this morning. Within the actuaries report there is a paragraph that explains how the performance of UK equities has fallen back recently due to the fear of leaving the EU, but that investments in emerging markets in China and South America are providing growth. That is the entire problem with any arguments for leaving the EU. They fail to recognise that money will always go where it can increase value. There is no place for sentiment in the financial markets.

    Another point worthy of consideration, in that respect, is the cost burden of services such as the police, government the NHS etc, that do not make a profit of UK plc. IF the UK leaves the EU, and the clever money goes to more attractive countries, as it already is, then people in the UK will be left with a very expensive non-profitmaking tax burden, and one which they can no longer afford. (Cue US privatisation of the NHS). Pressing the re-set button will put so many shocks into the markets there will be a flight to safety. Many government ministers know this, because they have already moved their investments overseas.

    Just a thought: My friends in Holland tell me that British businesses have been re-locating to Amsterdam and other major cities since the outcome of the referendum became known. The cost of ‘real estate’ there has rocketed. Indeed, Lever Brothers tried that same tactic but were prevented by shareholders. My hunch is that shareholders will soon let go of sentiment when they realise the value of their investment is decreasing.

    Like you, I remember the days before the Common Market. Like it, or not, the world has changed. The EU is just a small cog in what has become a global marketplace. As former businessman, I know that we never left any stones unturned. For ministers to suggest there are untapped markets is beyond naive. For people to believe that is simply incredulous!

    Hope all is well down on the coast.


  • Just a quick note to say I thought your last couple of articles (on fracking and brexit ) were particularly excellent. In a world where there are too few pearls and too many swine your efforts are invaluable.


  • Unsubscribe please


  • Theresa May's Brexit does not deliver the Brexit I voted for and is BINO (Brexit in name only). Many of the things which I wanted will not be delivered with the present proposals (eg, the ability to make Trade deals with whoever we want; full control of our immigration policy; freedom to make our own laws without interference from Brussels; control of our own Human Rights legislation and perhaps, most of all, to maintain the integrity of our UNITED KINGDOM!! It is a disgrace that the Attorney General, with Theresa May's complicity, tried to pull the wool over Parliament's eyes with regard to the future of Northern Ireland!

    The actions and words of the Remainers have been disgraceful. If the vote had gone the other way and Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, Jacob R. M., not to mention you and I had carried on campaigning to leave we would have been ridiculed and branded 'sore losers' and told to shut up and accept the will of the people.

    Theresa May, a confessed Remainer, is clearly the wrong person to drive the Leave campaign. It's like putting a fox in charge of the hen coop or a 'Lag' in charge of prison security!

    Once the vote had been declared all politicians, people in authority and the population as a whole should have got behind Brexit to ensure that it delivered the best deal for the U.K. However the 'great and the good' decided that Brexiteers were not sufficiently wise enough to make the right choice and they set about undermining the process and providing Brussels with ammunition to 'screw' us.
    In wartime anyone doing something to damage the wellbeing or prosperity of their country would be regarded as a Traitor. Of the many such candidates some that spring readily to mind are Anna Soubery, Dominic Grieve, Mark Carney and, of course, our own Chancellor.

    We could end up in the worst of all situations being effectively ½ in and ½ out and paying £40 billion for the privilege or if recent developments (Power to Parliament etc) take a 'turn for the worse' not leaving at all. Democracy, Democracy wherefore art thou Democracy.

    If we do leave we could be stuck with many E.U. rules without any say in formulating them; the worst of all worlds!

    If Theresa May does not get a grip on her party and the Brexit process she should arrange for Jeremy Corbyn to come round to Number 10 to start measuring for curtains.


  • Thank you for your article on Brexit. I agreed with every word. I also thought it a particularly fine piece of journalism.


  • Please email me when a new article appears.



We're not going to re-open an argument for or against any of these views. All views are important in the present debate.

Dated:  30 November 2018

 

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