Tag Archives: John Redwood


Labour’s silence on Venezuela

The sound of silence can be deafening. The Labour leadership has gone quiet when it comes to praising the Chavistas of Venezuela, who they used to tell us had got it right. The Chavez model of giving more and more to the poor was popular and worked for a bit, until the state ran out of money to give. Under Mr Maduro they have resorted to the printing presses to increase benefits, with the result that they have triggered a massive inflation and a collapse of the currency. Venezuela is very dependent on imports for food, medicines and other essentials. It now suffers chronic shortages of basic goods owing to the shortage of hard currency to buy what is needed. It is often the poor who suffer most from the shortages, as they cannot afford the very high black market prices that are the alternative.

Venezuela was once a rich country, and should be so again given its huge oil reserves. Mr Chavez purged the state oil company of skilled managers and executives, replacing them with his supporters. He took large sums out of the state oil company revenues for social purposes, leaving the business starved of cash and talent to maintain and develop the assets. When the lower oil price hit the company was already struggling. Venezuela was 95% dependent on oil for its export revenues, leaving it badly stretched when oil output and the value of the turnover fell.

Like many such regimes the Venezuelan government blames everyone but itself for its plight. It blames the USA, who under President Obama imposed sanctions on the country and saw it as a threat to US policy. It blames the Opposition, who have at times pursued their cause with violence though they would say it is the regime’s friends amongst the security forces and colectivos who drag them into fights. It blames the rich for pre-empting too much of the economic activity, whilst often seeking to enrich its own supporters. It blames private sector companies, alleging they hoard goods to create scarcity and higher prices.

The government thinks the answer is political. They see the way forward as the elimination of opposition. They have arrested two of the Opposition leaders. They are seeking ways to shut down or undermine the Opposition led National Assembly. They have elected a Constituent Assembly against the wishes of the Opposition to draw up changes to the constitution, which many suspect will be used as a means of delaying the next Presidential and other elections, and will be looking for ways to eclipse the opposition.

None of this will change the fundamental problems of too much created money chasing too few goods, and the lack of international confidence in the domestic Venezuelan currency. Venezuela’s economic model is badly broken. They have demonstrated for all the world to see that printing too much money causes hyperinflation. Taxing and controlling the rich and the private sector too much stifles investment and drives it away from the country. Preferring unaccountable and absolute power over democratic and accountable power leads to violence, a bitterly divided society, and a rolling political crisis.

Does Labour still think this is the good alternative model we should be following?

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Brexit policy and how to negotiate

I am glad the PM has made clear we will end freedom of movement and have our own migration policy on exit, as I reminded people here on this blog last week. She has also clarified the issue of a transitional Agreement. The UK has not asked for one. We still have 19 months left to negotiate a proper Agreement. Negotiating a transitional one would require prior consent to a full Agreement, then allowing discussion of how to transition from the one to the other. It is not intrinsically easier to negotiate a Transitional Agreement than a permanent Agreement, and requires consent to where the two parties are going during transition.

There are those in the Opposition, the media and business who seem to want to turn the EU/UK talks into a negotiation amongst ourselves about what we are trying to achieve. This is damaging to the UK’s official negotiating strategy, as it leads some in the EU to think that if they delay and prod the UK will change its mind and offer to carry on with budget contributions, freedom of movement and the other items that so favour the rest of the EU. MPs and others in senior positions in the Labour party keep changing their minds about membership of the single market and customs union, long after Parliament has voted decisively both to send the Article 50 letter and to exit both the single market and Customs Union.

Let’s have another go at reminding people what the UK has already decided. The people voted to leave the EU. They did so with both official campaigns pointing out this meant leaving the single market and customs Union. They voted leave to take back control, especially of our money, our laws and our borders.

Remain supporters then forced legislation and Parliamentary votes to test out the will of the people. Parliament voted overwhelmingly to leave the EU. The Commons since the election has voted to leave the single market and customs union as part of that, as was always implied in the previous Parliamentary votes.

Some Remain supporters now want to invent a Transitional Agreement, requiring the UK to go on paying budget contributions, accepting freedom of movement, and continuing to accept new EU laws. This is not government policy, and is clearly against the wishes of the people as expressed in the Referendum.

When asked why they want this, they usually argue that the other EU member states will damage their trade with us and our trade with them if we do not accept continuing features of EU membership. It is a cruel irony that the most pro EU are the most negative about the nature and likely actions of our EU partners. They are also going to be proved wrong on this as on so much else about Brexit. WTO rules work fine, if the rest of the EU really does want to damage its valuable exports of agricultural produce and cars. Their more voluminous exports will attract far more tariff than our sales to them. Under WTO rules and international law the EU cannot stop companies and individuals in its territory buying and selling things with the UK.

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