What am I actually voting for?


There are a lot of people from both sides telling me what I think and putting words in my mouth as soon as I say anything that favours one side or the other.

I don’t think a vote for Remain is a vote for everything every Remain campaigner has ever said. It is not a vote for all Corbin’s and Cameron’s ideas.

Similarly, I don’t think a vote for Leave is a vote for everything every Leave campaigner ever said. It is not a vote for all Gove’s and Johnson’s ideas.

So rather than not vote for the things I don’t like, I should feel free to vote for the specific things I do like.

What actually happens, either way, after the referendum will be decided by the current and future governments and if we don’t like what they do, we can vote them out.


Arriba, arriba! Ándale!


Let’s go! Why do I keep saying the UK could be more dynamic outside the EU, free to prosper more and do more good in the world?

This is an extract from something in the Telegraph (don’t judge me I don’t read the Telegraph) which sums it up nicely:

Does EU membership help us negotiate free trade deals with the rest of the world? Tariff-free access to the fast growing, protected markets of Asia, Africa and Latin America would be worthwhile. Unfortunately, EU membership prevents us negotiating free trade deals – and the EU has negotiated few deals for us: none with China, India, Australia, Brazil.

Does the EU’s size mean it gets better deals than we could alone?  This is the reverse of the truth. The more countries involved in a trade deal the harder, slower and worse the result.

All 28 EU members have a veto on their negotiations which is why EU deals take so long and exclude so much. Bilateral deals are simpler, quicker and more comprehensive.

Hence Chile has deals covering countries with collective GDP five times the EU’s deals.   Even Iceland – population less than Croydon – has a trade agreement with China – as does Switzerland.

Would Britain have to renegotiate from scratch the EU’s existing trade deals?  Under the “principle of continuity” in international law we can adapt existing EU treaties to the UK. We should start that process before leaving the EU.

Would negotiating continued free trade with the EU take many years? Trade deals to remove tariffs involve complex trade-offs between differing tariffs on thousands of products and facing up to the vested interests they protect.

Negotiating continuing tariff-free trade between the UK and EU simply means keeping zero tariffs.

Do only European Economic Area members have access to the Single Market? The Single Market is talked about as if it were some inner sanctum accessible to a privileged few.

In fact, every country has access to the Single Market – with or without tariffs.

The Single Market, involved harmonising product rules – sensible, since businesses can now make one product range for the European market, not 28.   But that benefits American and Japanese exporters as much as German or British firms.

People assume Britain benefits from participating in setting these rules. But rules provide a framework within which all companies operate – not an advantage to any individual country.

Britain set the rules of tennis but rarely wins Wimbledon. British exports to the EU have grown less rapidly since the Single Market than they did before, less than our partners’ and much less than non-EU countries’ exports!

Maybe that is partly because we suffer EU regulations on 100 per cent of our companies whereas non-EU firms need only comply with EU regulations on activities carried out within the EU.

Our shops are full of goods from countries with which we have no trade deal. They are not essential now tariffs between developed countries are so low.

But outside the EU we will be able to negotiate speedily the really worthwhile deals to access fast growing protected markets such as China, India and Brazil which the EU has ignored.

And we can retain free trade with the EU without paying our current entry fee which costs more than the tariffs we avoid.


Does the UK need the EU for moral guidance?


Judging from some of the Remain campaign arguments there is a perception that we need the EU to keep our governments on the moral straight and narrow.

Well here’s a salient thing. The UK is second only to the USA in the amount of foreign aid it gives. Yes we are the 5th largest economy but we punch above our weight. We give about 20% more than the Germans even though they are a large economy and we give nearly twice as much as France. We have pledged to give 0.7% of GDP in aid. We are already head and shoulders above the EU in this. But next year the EU is introducing changes in the way government departments do accounting, which is good, standard accounting makes sense. But under the new accounting, in order to meet our target we will spend an extra billion on foreign aid. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be doing that anyway but not because of an accounting method.

Race to the Bottom – Boatrace!


Boatrace? it’s a drinking game. Anyway you can imagine the near misses I had googling for a bottom picture, luckily this pic was near the top of the results squeezed between 10 million pictures of someone called Kim.

Dutch PM warns of ‘race to the bottom’ if post-Brexit UK brings in points system. I’m not sure how the causal chain he is suggesting here would work. Or what the ‘bottom’ condition means. Assuming he thinks some kind of tit-for-tat spat goes on.

That seem illogical to me. If we did a tat and they wanted to do a tit then all 27 EU members would have to agree first so I think this game of tit-tat would be pretty slow. Also it smacks of cutting off your nose to spite your face.

If for example the UK had too many treacle grinders but Germany didn’t have enough and there were great big lumps of treacle building up in Germany. We would want to change the points to deter treacle grinders coming here. What would Germany do to tit our tat, stop UK treacle grinders coming to Germany and learn to chew their lumpy treacle, no that would be silly.

If say Germany had too many steam roller drivers and therefore they put restrictions on the number of migrating steam roller drivers why should that bother me as a UK steam roller driver? Why would I want to go to Germany and try to get a job in a country where they already have too many steam roller drivers? I’m starting to wish I’d picked a job title with a shorter name.

I would like to suggest a company sponsorship mechanism be added to the mix to cover relocating companies key staff and situations where say, don’t scream at me, Polish cabbage pickling technicians are just better skilled than ours simply because Poles have been pickling cabbage for centuries.

I’ve use specific countries in the examples but remember that the EU (unless they change some big things) would have to agree as a whole.

Bottoms up!


TUC crackers


The Remain campaign today:

“New research released today by the TUC, who speak for nearly six million UK workers, shows that working people will be £38 a week worse off if we leave the EU……TUC leader Frances O’Grady points out, for millions of workers it’s the difference between heating or eating, between struggling or saving, and between getting by or getting on.”

That 38 quid is the average. So if you earn much less than average you will be much less affected so the difference for you would be way less than £38; if you earn more than average you would be more than £38 worse off.

£38 might be the difference between eating or heating for people whose earnings are way below average in which case it won’t be £38 for them it will be much less.

‘Research’, ok it is an economical prediction. But for the sake of argument let’s assume all the negative assumptions this is based on come true and by some miracle they are in the right ball park. That’s just under £2000 a year which is a bit different to the £4300 that still appears on the Remain campaign leaflet.

£38 is suspiciously precise isn’t it. A rough prediction is always more plausible because it can be roughly right. A precise prediction will usually be precisely wrong. But they can’t help themselves.

6 million people is quite a lot just to make biscuits. Also I bet we can find a TUC member who is voting Leave so on this issue, I don’t know but, I’d be surprised if all the people they ‘speak for’ are voting stay.

Tony Blair on Andrew Marr


See we can all be provocative.

Great I thought we might get some sense from Tony. This hope was based on an observation that retired politicians often start talking more sense when free from their political harness.

Onnne… Almost the first thing he said “What are you going to do leave the EU and send everyone home?” provocative. No Tony, no one is saying that and you know it. You, of all people, should know not to imply such nonsense. I expect most rights currently being exercised will be preserved. There will be no mass expulsions. Any change would only apply going forward to new employments, obviously. What you’re suggesting is ridiculous. And Andrew Marr nullified this glib comment with the Luxembourg Compromise. I don’t know what that is but I trust Marr not to bullsh*t us. Tony didn’t press the point, I think he said “yeah but anyway” or something similar.

Twwwwoa… Unperturbed Tony continues “Even if we stop ALL EU immigration it will still be a problem.” No Tony, sweetheart, no one is suggesting that either and you know it.

Threeeea.. Next he says “Outside if we want access to the single market we would have to renegotiate free movement anyway like Norway did.”. No not necessarily. We are bigger than Norway and who says we have to negotiate the exact same deal we have now. We can find a solution anywhere from one extreme to the other. It’s a matter of bargaining tariff levels against membership requirements. We might think some opt outs are worth paying for. I say might, I don’t say we should. He also said something like “good luck with the WTO option” which was quite dismissive of an organisation that has done so well at moving the world towards free trade despite the efforts of the EU.

Yer out! That was your three strikes Tony. If he can still be that deliberately obtuse and inflammatory in arguing his case on this, how can I believe him on other subjects. So I stopped listening.


You’re a racist, no you’re a racist.


Until now I’ve largely stayed away from the immigration topic because as my headline hints it’s a scary debate with lots of nasty accusations flying around. But since it seems unavoidable… by the way, take this with a pinch of salt I’m partly just demonstrating how easy it is to imply someone is racist.

Which of these positions is most xenophobic, and most simplistic?

  1. We will try to limit immigration from the EU countries to a specific number of people per year.
  2. “We want to welcome people because of the skills they have not because of the passport they have.”

Position 1. is the de facto Remain campaign position. David Cameron has been promising to limit immigration by numbers. Wanting to limit immigration per se seems to imply that they think immigration is a problem in general which flirts with xenophobia. Now I don’t believe that is what they really think but that is the only option available to them because of the free movement rule and the only ammo they have is to stretch the EU’s good will by fiddling around with benefit rules for immigrants. Why they are not arguing the EU’s case for completely free movement more strongly I don’t know; if they really believed in it they would not be promising to curtail immigration and not trying to dissuade immigrants. Their position is opaque.

Position 2. is the Brexit campaign slogan. If there is a skill we are short of then we what as many as we can get with that skill. There is no fixed numerical limit. If we need nurses, doctors, engineers and experienced fruit pickers then let’s get ‘em in. If we don’t need more bottle washers, lawyers, plastic surgeons or treacle grinders then they would have to retrain if they really want to come and work here. I have to say this position seems quite clear and pragmatic to me. If it did turn out to be a bad idea that wouldn’t be because it’s racist or even xenophobic.

I don’t know why anyone would be scared of xylophones any way.