Jun 142018
 

Trump is outdoing himself in stupidity by starting a trade war with the strongest allies of the US. He imposed unilateral tariffs on steel and aluminium (supposedly to protect US workers although it won’t do that), and acts surprised when allies respond with tariffs of their own.

Which is a bit like a child being surprised when they throw a ball in the air and it falls back on their head.

So what effect will the tariffs on steel and aluminium have? For a start, the US producers of steel and aluminium are not going to suddenly pick up the slack – the US imports in the region of $2 billion worth of steel products per month, and whilst US steel manufacturers can increase production it won’t be able to increase it that quickly.

So the US will continue to import foreign steel, but importers will pay more for it. That means the goods produced by imported steel will cost more. Consumers will pay more for those goods or switch to foreign producers who produce it cheaper (the later will cost US jobs).

So Trump has chosen to implement tariffs that will harm the US.

And assumed that those countries Trump has imposed tariffs on will meekly accept their punishment; which obviously hasn’t happened..

The EU has imposed retaliatory tariffs on motorcycles, cranberry juice, denim, peanut butter, and cigarettes. Notice something interesting about those products? They are all finished products with easily sourced alternative suppliers, or luxury goods that aren’t necessary.

In other words the EU tariffs are going to have a minimal impact on the EU economy.

So Trump will blame the damage to the US economy on his own trade war, and point to the lack of damage to the EU’s economy as ‘evidence’.

Expect more temper tantrum Trump ‘policies’ shortly.

 

Nov 062016
 

There has been a great deal of fuss over the recent High Court decision recently that requires the government to ask parliament to authorise Article 50 to trigger leaving the EU. Most of it complete rubbish, and the more extreme responses were childish too.

The court case had nothing to do with Brexit itself – it was a constitutional issue over whether the government had exceeded its authority by trying to use the royal prerogative to authorise Article 50. The court decided it had, and that parliament should decide on the Article 50 issue.

It was not an attempt to defeat Brexit. There wasn’t some sort of remainer conspiracy to block Brexit. It was “just” a standard constitutional law case deciding on whether the government was using the royal prerogative unnecessarily to act in an undemocratic way.

As a side effect of the decision, there is a chance that parliament might decide to ignore the referendum result and try to remain within the EU. This would probably be a dumb move (and I would prefer to remain within the EU), but the blame for that loophole is down to how the original referendum was drawn up.

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Jun 292016
 

Having said give it a rest already, this is where I rant a bit about the dumbest decision England has made since following the direction of the pope and invading Ireland back in the 13th century.

So it turns out that crowd-sourcing decisions can sometimes result in the dumbest possible result. If you think about it a bit, you realise that the decision is effectively not a decision at all. The result (52% for exit, 48% for remain) indicates that half the country wants to leave and half the country wants to remain. We’re effectively undecided.

Parliament could ignore the result and decide to remain within the EU; the referendum is not legally binding. That probably isn’t going to happen, and a second referendum is even less likely – I cannot see the politicians wanting to spend that much money on democracy.

The amusing thing is that there are people out there who voted to leave as a protest vote, and didn’t really want to leave at all. Which strikes me as possibly the dumbest method of protesting you can possibly come up with. Mooning number 10 Downing Street is more sensible than voting for something you do not want.

But what do those of us who want to remain part of the EU do? Probably the most sensible thing is to keep quiet, let things go through their course, and in about 5 years time start campaigning to re-join the EU. Five years is about long enough to demonstrate just how dumb this move was, and will also shift all those under-18 remain fans get old enough to start voting.

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Apr 282016
 

How much money do we pay into the EU? Well according to Full Fact, it’s quite a bit less than the Brexit campaigners would have us believe (who would have thought it? Politicians lying!). It’s actually around 13 billion a year (inclusive of the rebate), and the EU directly spends about 4 billion in the UK. To which can be added other figures such as grants for research, etc.

Now that’s still quite a bit of money, and the Brexit campaigners are busy claiming all sorts of benefits that could come about if we spent it ourselves rather than send it to the EU.

Really? Have they not checked the colour of the Prime Minister’s underpants? The current Tory government is not in the business of spending money; they are more interested in cutting taxes for their rich cronies.

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Feb 292016
 

So the Euroskeptics want a divorce between us and the EU; or in other words they want to go back to a time when we would protect our interests in Europe by going to war every generation or so. Which is a far more expensive proposition than EU membership fees, and far riskier.

Because the continent has always been there. And throughout history we have had to keep an eye on what the rest of Europe is up to, and intervene whenever France, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, or Germany has been involved in actions that interfere with our interests. Being part of a club that can discuss contentious issues and tell a member to stop behaving badly is far preferable than the old way of doing things. And yes that involves giving up a bit of sovereignty.

When you come down to it, that little loss of sovereignty hurts the politicians more than the rest of us, and the rest of us are more likely to be the ones killed off in European wars.

Does it seem a little far fetched that leaving the EU will cause the return of European wars? Perhaps, but one of the reasons it seems far-fetched is that we do have an EU where we can go and argue. Without that safeguard, there is not a great deal to stop the return of the old ways.

Immigration

There is an assumption that leaving the EU will lead to fewer immigrants arriving in the UK.

Perhaps. At least in the long-term assuming we ignore the UN directives on refugees, but in the short-term there is a good chance that immigration will increase.

For a start, all those refugees and economic migrants from outside the EU won’t suddenly stop coming just because we leave the EU. Sure we’ll set up new border guards, but that will take time. And guards don’t stop everyone.

And what incentive does France have to co-operate over that migrant camp outside Calais? None of course; their interests would be best served by giving all the refugees a Eurostar ticket to move the refugee camp to Britain.

And what happens to all those Brits who have set up homes in the EU? Are they going to want to return to Britain? Is the EU going to force them? After all there is no natural right of residence for citizens of former members of the EU. Perhaps you would not count such returnees as “immigrants” but they would have all the same problems – needing a place to stay, and often needing income support.

And most of them would be rather annoyed.

Trade

The “outers” would have us believe that leaving the EU is an opportunity to make trade deals with the rest of the world to more than make up for the trade lost with Europe. Half our trade is with Europe, which in monetary terms is very roughly 230 billion a year.

In other words the “outers” want to put that 230 billion of income at risk in order to gain an unknown amount of trade through new trade agreements.

And what stops us making those trade agreements now anyway?

Regulation and Justice

Of course one of the big weapons the “outers” have is to claim that we would be freed from all that tedious European regulation. Well, perhaps but remember that 230 billion of trade with Europe? The EU isn’t going to let us export stuff to Europe if we don’t follow the EU regulation; it has always been the case that if you want to sell something in a market you have to meet the regulations of that market.

It is one of the reasons why the EU started regulation – to harmonise regulation across Europe so that you could meet one set of EU regulations rather than 28 different sets of national regulations.

And as soon as we get rid of EU regulation, we’re going to start getting British regulation instead. It won’t be a one-for-one replacement of course, but we won’t be losing as much regulation as we think.

There is a whole set of EU regulation that business universally loathes – the EU regulations that protect workers (such as the Working Time Directive). Well I for one think that European protection for workers is valuable; certainly our own government isn’t interested in protecting workers!

As to the European Court of Justice, the politicians are all up in arms about their power to overturn decisions made by parliament. Which must be very irritating for them, but ignore the whole “sovereignty” thing for a moment – don’t you secretly think it’s a good idea to have someone overseeing parliament? After all, it’s not as if politicians are trustworthy, so having some oversight is not a bad idea at all.

And people overlook just how useful the European Court of Justice has been to us – it wasn’t such a long time ago that France was blocking British beef imports on the grounds that British cows used to have this health issue. Of course what they were really doing was protecting French farmers. And the ECJ forced the French government to repeal laws that prevented British beef being imported.

And there are plenty of other examples where the ECJ has been helpful.

Unelected Bureaucrats & Democracy

You will often hear the phrase “unelected bureaucrats” (or even “eurocrats”) in association with the EU. You could almost imagine that politicians are volunteering to do some real work.

In reality government is run by unelected bureaucrats – when a farm inspector visited a farmer and told her that she needed to paint blue numbers on her cows and not red numbers, he would blame the bureaucrats; in the 1940s it was the civil servants in London; today it is the eurocrats in Brussels. It’s just a different flavour of bureaucrat.

And as for the EU being undemocratic, well the EU Parliament is trying it’s hardest to change that. And it’s the heads of national governments who are blocking such reforms. So when a national politician is complaining about undemocratic Europe, she is speaking with a forked tongue (how can you tell if a politician is speaking with a forked tongue? Their mouth is open).

The Edge

Fin

If you hadn’t already guessed by now, I’m in favour of staying within Europe. Sorry I meant staying within the EU. The EU is the future of Europe, and for better or worse we’re part of Europe, so if we want to have our say on the future of Europe, we had better stay within the EU.

 

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