Injecting some balance into the EU talks

All the time the UK accepts that the talks are about the so called divorce settlement without including a future agreement and trade issues they are a waste of time from the UK point of view. It would be better just to leave.

On Thursday morning I was invited to the LSE to lead a discussion with a legal expert on EU Treaty law and the Vienna Convention on Treaties on the issue of  the so called divirce bill. Many at the seminar were on the EU’s side, favouring us paying a large sum and seeking legal, political and moral reasons why we should.

The good news was no-one was able to sustain a legal case for us to pay. Article 50 clearly makes no such demand. There was also general agreement that any attempt by the EU to pursue us for money after we have left through any international legal procedure would fail. Article 50 gives us the absolute right to leave after 2 years, and expressly states that ends our rights and obligations.

The moral case for paying is based on the proposition that we were round the table when the 7 year budget plan was agreed. This falls down because we were not let off payments for  budgets agreed before we joined once we became a member. When you join you have to accept the liabilities already incurred, so when you leave the liabilities must stop.

The political case for paying is based on the simple fact that the EU wants us to pay, so many pro EU Brits think we should do so. They sometimes think this will unlock advantages for us which apparently  take the form of staying in bits of the EU that we voted to leave!

When I go into a shop I do not give them a large sum of money because they would like me to, and then ask them if they will give me any goods back in return. If the EU wants us to stay in the EIB or Erasmus then they need to tell us and spell out the price and what we would get in return. We should not pay to trade, or pay for talks, as they are in their interest too.

If as many expect the EU says at the October Council they still do not intend to talk about a future Agreement we should just get on with preparing for exit with No Deal. We should certainly not offer them money, which would be taken as signs of weakness by the UK, encouraging them to dig in harder to get more.

Grant Shapps

I do not support Mr Shapps in his view that we need a Conservative leadership election.

I note that the other 29 MPs he has hinted are with him have not spoken out or let their names be known. They are either surprisingly reticent rebels, or they do not exist.

The media say he needs 48 MPs to sign a letter for a leadership election. They need to  add they would also need to find 160 Conservative MPs to vote for a leadership election, as a motion of confidence follows the letters. This is not going to happen.

Spain and the EU test democratic legitimacy and consent

Growing up as I did  in a settled country with a strong but flexible constitution, the issue of government  legitimacy and democratic consent were ones for the history books.

The transfer of major powers to the EU changed all that. I came to realise I was caught up in a re run of the democratic struggles of earlier centuries in the UK, as many people and some in Parliament  came to challenge the authority of government – not this time of the King, but of the EU.  We have now found our resolution, through the ballot box. We have also resolved the issue of Scottish nationalism through a democratic vote of the Scottish people, which was agreed to be a once in a generation matter by both sides prior to the vote.

In Spain they are far from finding a resolution. The Spanish state has always had tensions between the powerful regional states and the centre in Madrid. The Basque country has chafed at Spanish rule, and Catalonia has long had an independence movement.  These feelings have attracted more support as a result of the EU demanding more austerity year after year from the Spanish budget, and because the EU has assisted with a general economic policy which has failed to deliver good levels of employment and income.

In December 2016 the Spanish voters elected a Parliament which was simply incapable of forming any kind of government. Another election ensued in June 2017. Again no majority government could form. Instead the second largest party, the socialists, agreed to abstain so the leader of the largest party could win a vote to head a  minority coalition government. Mr Rajoy, the PM, was elected on a ticket of no tax rises, but has to put some into his budget to try to comply with EU deficit rules.

It is this very weak type of government that has to handle the Catalan crisis. It is true Mr Rajoy can count on more Parliamentary support from Spain outside Catalonia, the Canary islands and the Basque country. Most of the rest want to keep Catalonia in Spain, where it makes a substantial contribution to tax revenues above its share of public spending.

The Spanish government’s decision to deploy national police to take control by force set public sector workers employed by the Spanish state against public sector workers employed by the devolved Catalan government. It has shaken the whole question in many Catalan’s minds, of who should have the authority and the power over them? Mr Rajoy may come to appreciate  that in a democracy those with the power must behave in a way which preserves the implied consent to the system by most of the people for most of the time. If too many people come to resent or challenge the democratic authority, the fact that it was elected does not solve the problem. When elected to office, particularly in a weak coalition that cannot even command a majority as a coalition, office holders should understand the need for sufficient consent to exercise their constitutional powers.

Weak new UK car market continues

The new car market was growing before the Brexit vote, grew well after the vote and continued growing after the Article 50 letter.It turned down in April of this year as a result of Tressury  and Bank of England policy.

The Bank has required banks to rein in car loans. The Treasury hit buyers with higher VED on dearer vehicles. The government put question marks over diesel and petrol vehicles leading people to worry about future values. This continued decline was to be expected and I have explained this before on this site.

Why young people should embrace Brexit

There is no greater gift that we can pass on to our children than the gift of living in freedom.

I was born into a free country. I valued the democratic traditions, the rule of domestic law, the ability to fire the government through the ballot box, the right to voice a view and debate what was wrong.

I watched with growing apprehension as the decision to join a common market morphed into the wholesale loss of our freedoms.

We surrendered the right to make our own decisions about what taxes to impose,  what laws to pass,  what tariffs if any we should impose on our imports and how the government should spend the money it has raised. The European Court struck down our duly enacted legislation, made us repay corporation tax to large companies, and often found our country in violation of their wishes.

The decision to leave the EU changes all that.

Today, in the EU we are not allowed to remove VAT from female hygeine products as Parliament would like to do. We have to place taxes on a wide range of green products from insulation to boiler controls, that Parliament would like to abolish. We have to impose high tariffs on a range of foodstuffs coming to us from the Commonwealth and the wider non EU world, making food dearer and punishing developing countries. We see our fishing grounds run down under an EU policy that manages to be harmful both to the fish and to our fishermen. We have gone from being a large exporter of fish prior to joining, to be a net importer.

Leaving the EU gives us all the chance to change things for the better.

Where we like an EU law or regulation we can keep it. Where an EU law or tax is unjust or damaging we can amend or remove it.

Young people will be particular beneficiaries of the change leaving generates. It will create great opportunities for enterprise, for creativity, for better government. It will strengthen the voices of the young and give more power to their votes. They will inherit a political system which allows them to shape or dismiss the governments that rule. We are not turning our backs on Europe. There will still be plenty of joint working, cultural exchanges, movement of people to visit, learn,  shop and invest in each other’s countries.

Just look at the opportunities it will offer us for more and better jobs. There will be big scope to replace imports with domestic food and industrial products. This will provide opportunities for well paid jobs and for establishing new businesses. If the EU opts for tariffs and other barriers as they seem to want, our farmers will supply us with more of our own food, and our car factories will produce more of the cars we chose to drive.

Just look at the opportunities it will offer to improve our laws and make our government bend more to the popular will. We will be able to spend the £12bn a year we currently send to the EU and do not get back will help in many ways. We need to debate more how we should spend this Brexit windfall, whilst reminding our government we do not want to go on sending money to rich countries in the EU once we have left. Education and health are priorities which we can spend more on once we have left.

Above all where young people see an injustice or want to follow a cause for a better country they will be able to do so safe in the knowledge that we have the powers here at home to adopt the remedy. Where today the answer is so often Brussels will not allow us to do that, tomorrow once out we will be able to do as we wish.

Freedom is heady. It teems with opportunity. Let us unite in confidence that when the UK is a free country again, it can also be a better country as  a result.