Sovereignty is a matter of degree

This is a copy of a letter recently sent to a newspaper though I regret have lost the reference as to which.
Its destination is not important but its sentiment is.
We have someone here from a very small (rather attractive, if I recall correctly) town of about 5,000 in Bedfordshire, who considers sovereignty beyond price.

Like charity, sovereignty begins at home.
So Roger’s sovereignty is undoubtedly already likely to be compromised.
Probably he has a wife and children so that is his first problem. Even if he doesn’t does he refuse to deal with Shefford Town Council?

And what about Bedfordshire County Council?
I think we might have heard if he had refused to pay his Council tax.
Sovereignty is a matter of degree.

It seems as though Roger wants Parliament to look more like the highest court in the land, though of course it has always been and remains so – whether we leave the EU or not. It just means that Parliament may cede, by agreement, a little of its control to the European Court of Justice, the European Commission or even Bedfordshire County Council.

Clearly Roger didn’t mean that sovereignty was beyond price but that sovereignty has its price. His price is drawing the line under Brussels to include Westminster and Bedfordshire County Council. And to make himself, and others, poorer.

It is often said that North Korea is the the most fearlessly sovereign and independant country in the world. It too, is poor. Yet, remuneration aside, even that hasn’t been going too well of late has it Roger?

Now I’ve given up on Kim jong-un, but how do we persuade Roger to widen his horizons?

Perhaps in a spirit of compromise, Roger might be ideally placed to give a little help to Mr Trump  with his reponsibilities – he might wish to use this simple map as a start?

If they did have a chat they might both realise that sovereignty is always a matter of degree and definitely has its price.


If it was a vote for anything, Brexit was a vote for import substitution

The UK is unable to properly negotiate trade deals until it has left the EU, so the government seems to be trying to soften up various countries with a view to signing deals as soon as possible after Brexit.  I imagine this is why Liam Fox has been to America and Boris Johnson to Australia.

It may be all fine and dandy to seek to substitute access to the largest Customs Union in the world with individual deals for access to countries – none of whom, even together, are markets of the same size as the market the Brexiteers are so keen to leave – but it is safe to say that no trade deal will be completed before the two year deadline from triggering Article 50.

The Brexit vote was seen by the government largely as a vote against immigration, presumably because Nigel Farage said so. (My opinion has always been that it was more likely to be a vote against the hopelessness of austerity.) Yet the EU’s central purpose is as a block for mutual trade so what the vote was most clearly, was a vote against international trading with our closest neighbours in Europe.

Yet we now have the government trying to increase our international trade with the rest of the world. This is a further indication of the English exceptionalism that has previously been mentioned here and elsewhere. The UK does not wish to trade with its nearest neighbours in Europe but really desperately wants to trade with countries on the other side of the world. That harks back to the empire. The two need not of course, be mutually exclusive but the Brexit vote seems to have made them so.

Given the lack of preparedness and general paucity of skilled capabilities in the current government we should be concentrating our limited resources less on world trade and much more on import substitution.

Land may be Britain’s most important resource but we cannot untie from our mooring off the coast of mainland Europe for a more desirable location. It is equally arguable that people are the country’s most important resource but certainly they are at least a very close second.

If, therefore, you treat the Brexit vote as an anti immigration vote then you need import substitution. That needs investment in that second most important resource: people. That means the finest possible training and education for the British population so immigrants find it so difficult to compete they are not required.

It means too, increasing minimum wages and – especially – enforcing minimum wages so that all jobs provide rewarding employment which enable a proper family life and so all the jobs which we are told the home population do not want to do, become desirable to someone.

It also needs investment in things. At the minimum this requires a National Investment Bank targeting funds towards industries where imports could be substituted. And Green QE would be beneficial for substituting energy imports.

And there is no danger this would not be useful whether or not the UK eventually parts company from the EU.

Even for the most ardent Brexiteer logically there is nothing ‘not to like’. Proper investment to make the country happy and glorious (as their National Anthem has it) and certainly happy and prosperous.

Instead the government lie to us that there is no money. And we have a toxic tribe of Brexiteers who think austerity is the future.

Never has a country been so utterly failed by its government.
Even when they call a binary referendum they do not understand the reply.

Is the Institute for Fiscal Studies on to something?

In a recent ‘Times’ article (republished on the IFS website)
Paul Johnson of the IFS  comments extensively on their recent report on UK living standards:

“ far the biggest challenge to have reared its head over the past ten years or so … is the massive squeeze on incomes right across the population. After taking account of inflation, average earnings remain below where they were in 2008. That’s unique in at least 150 years.”

He continues:
“Increasing employment and dreadful earnings growth have put paid to another verity. Poverty is no longer overwhelmingly associated with lack of employment. The majority of those officially classified as poor live in a household where someone is in work. More than four in ten children in families where one parent works now fall below the poverty line.”
And further:
“Another profound change relates to what it means to be in the middle of the income distribution. The incomes of those in the middle are no further behind the top than they were 20 years ago. But today half of middle-income families with children live in a rented property. Less than a third did so in the mid 1990s. With the extension of in-work benefits they are also more reliant than before on welfare. In the mid-1990s both the rich and the middle were generally owner-occupiers dependent on their own earnings. Increasingly the renting, benefit-dependent middle earners have, and perhaps feel they have, more in common with the poor than with the rich.”

Although, as we have come to expect of the IFS, he goes off the rails at the end of the article, when he talks about tax revenues (that’s why I have quoted extensively to spare PP readers from having to read it throughout!) his comments are a pretty devastating critique of the current economic circumstances.

His conclusions suggest that Labour has an open goal on living standards. They also imply that the idea that you get more right wing as you age may, with so many still feeling the pinch for much longer, not be as pervasive as most imagined.

Labour’s remaining problem is Brexit on which they are giving mixed messages. A period of Labour silence would surely be advantageous in order to allow the Tories gradually to strangle themselves. It seems to be most unlikely that the government will be able to get its five Brexit bills through the Commons and Lords unscathed and it I would be unsurprising if the government fell at an early hurdle. Still, the longer the government lasts the clearer it will be that leaving the EU is a recipe for impoverishment of the nation and that will, by the day, be getting more obvious to voters. So when Labour seems to suggest that its Brexit policies will be practical and influenced by circumstances as they arise perhaps that is no bad thing.

Add to that the fact that Conservative voters are getting elderly and some will, like Brexit voters, be popping their clogs.

Time I think, is on Labour’s side.

What’s the difference between a Yorkshireman and a Coconut?

I’m sure not all Yorkshiremen will excuse me but, as a former resident, I’m sure the ones worthy of the name will.

The answer is:- You can get a drink out of a coconut.

Perhaps that is why coconuts don’t flourish in Yorkshire.

Mind you, it turns out that the oil is the important part.

Does George Eustice, the Agriculture Minister, albeit a Cornishman, but still a (prosperous) farmer himself, realise this?

Because there seems a great appetite to think that there is major scope for import substitution when Britain leaves the EU.

George Eustice must realise that there is usually only one harvest a year and that crops and livestock do not grow overnight. His colleagues from the shires seem blissfully unaware, that, for example, about 30% of our lamb is exported – to the EU.

And even in Cornwall, although there may be a supply of tea there are no coconuts.

If farmers are to provide the food Britain needs they need, with just 20 months before potential ‘B’ day, to know precisely what they should be growing in order to earn a living.

And farmers might need to know that, for example, the  days are numbered for British Sugar and that coconuts are the future.

Indeed I think both are true even if we remain in the EU, but if the former may prove of some concern to East of England farmers the latter should be the concern rather for the British consumer.

Food and drink comprises the biggest section of EU regulation and yet, quite remarkably, there is no plan.

In the recent report by a combined Sussex, Cardiff and City Universities  Professor Lang, one of the contributors, said “UK food security and sustainability are now at stake. A food system which has an estimated three to five days of stocks cannot just walk away from the EU, which provides us with 31 per cent of our food. Anyone who thinks that this will be simple is ill-informed.”

And, he could have added, that all of that is based on a just in time ordering system.

When customs controls are reintroduced by the EU, even if the UK may, characteristically, choose not to afford them, then using the M2 as a lorry park is likely to become permanent.

Still, at least coconuts are more likely to come to Liverpool or Tilbury.

I think we have to conclude that food is one of many areas and also actually, probably the most important area where the government does not have the foggiest idea what it is doing. By failing to act now it is giving neither farmers nor their customers – us – any security.

This is a decidedly ill thought out way for the Government to run a country which is leaving a Customs Union. As a result the so called precariat is likely to comprise ever more members and will result in that same precariat becoming pervasive.

A sad indictment.

With a despairing heart, I return to to the more optimistic coconuts.

I cannot find anywhere in the EU that produces them.

So at least it is likely we will still be allowed the luxury of frying or roasting in coconut oil – and indeed organic supplies seem widely available.  Which is perhaps some recompense.

Perhaps this is a suitable way of encouraging ‘healthy life’ afficiandos to buy coconut oil to cook with, and in – if they aren’t already- and trying to encourage the spread of the good word.

When cooked, coconut oil doesn’t generally produce hydrogenated oils – so the oil you’re cooking in doesn’t change much. The table is below:

We can now even use lard without guilt.

In the past, I’ve consumed fish and chips with delicious chips cooked in lard. This was – and is now again – a tribute to Yorkshire, although, of course originally we were told that we should not allow lard, never mind appreciate the taste.

Now I’m much encouraged towards real food and just fry again – preferably in coconut oil – but local lard will certainly do!

Brexit and the UK in a Changing Europe

There are lots of web sites out there and plenty of recommended ones on our “useful links” area. However there are so many blogs/sites  that it is easy to miss some of the key ones and I have only come across the UK in a Changing Europe site recently. This is hosted by King’s College London but draws in expertise from the broad UK academic community.

Continue reading “Brexit and the UK in a Changing Europe”

Taking back too much control

There is a clause 7 in the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill that seems to have been little mentioned.

It states
“A Minister of the Crown may by regulations make such provision as the
Minister considers appropriate to prevent, remedy or mitigate—
(a) any failure of retained EU law to operate effectively, or
(b) any other deficiency in retained EU law, arising from the withdrawal of
the United Kingdom from the EU.”

Continue reading “Taking back too much control”