Happy Brexmas

As the turkeys that voted for Brexmas celebrate the oven being lit, it is a good time to look hard at what Chief Turkey Farmer and Head Chef Johnson has in mind for the stuffing.

Leaving the EU didn’t have to be the end of the world. The EU had a lot wrong with it. Fisheries for example, although the UK Government were more complicit in encouraging non-British trawlers into our waters than they would want to tell you. The expansion to poorer Eastern Europe countries was a fatal mistake, draining them of their best skills and opening their markets for exploitation, whilst topping up the bank accounts of sometimes corrupt, sometimes racist, often homophobic, more often incompetent Governments. However, it had a lot of good points too with the Single Market of undoubted economic benefit to the UK. A Norway solution would have enabled us to continue to benefit from the Single Market whilst being able to develop our own trade deals elsewhere, for what that’s worth. We might also have been able to put conditions on any financial contributions.

The turkeys are cock-a-hoop at what they think are the benefits of free trade deals with the rest of the world. How misinformed they are. Free trade works when the parties involved are roughly on a par in terms of economic and industrial development. It works best for net exporters of goods and commodities. But 80% of the UK economy is services. Manufacturing, food, mining including oil, gas and coal, and so on represent just 20% now and our labour costs in those sectors are comparatively high. Free trade in goods and commodities with less developed countries with much lower labour costs will inevitably destroy what little industry remains in the UK. Take a look at the automotive industries in New Zealand and Australia to see the future of our car factories. Conversely, free trade with developed, high labour cost economies in the EU based on common standards and rules, has been very beneficial to the UK over the years. We really don’t want or need free trade with China, India, and Brazil. We really do need access to the EU for our services sector. We have a major balance of payments surplus with the EU in services and, in their own economic interests, I have no doubt that the EU plans to restrict UK access in that area.

Trump is the result of ill-considered free trade that has destroyed a huge amount of US industrial production. Make no mistake, Trump’s trade wars are very popular domestically and may yet see him re-elected despite everything else.

So right now we have a belligerent Chief Turkey Farmer and Head Chef declaring that the UK will not be tied to any EU rules. When it comes to services though, they are the customer and the customer is always right or they go somewhere else. When it comes to our exports of goods again, they are the customers and set the rules. We can, or course, set our own rules when we are the buyers but we don’t exactly have the capacity to replace EU imports with domestic production. Either way we have a very weak hand when it comes to negotiation with a trading bloc seven times our size. It is utter madness.

I fear it is necessary for Brexiteers to dip their toes into the pain that will be life outside the EU/EEA. Nothing other than the reality of a decimated economy will change their minds. For some, trapped in a fantasy where the British Empire is still there, just waiting for us to rejoin, nothing at all will alter their view.

In the meantime, despite his rantings, Farage’s joy is likely to be relatively short-lived. Leavers are predominantly older and Remainers predominantly younger, 80% of the 18-24 group. To put it bluntly, Brexiteers are a dying breed. Remainers will, in time, have enough political clout to reverse Brexit. I give it 10 years unless the turkey farmers realise that the Norway/EEA route is actually the best compromise. I will be in Trafalgar Square celebrating Brentry. But the EU also need to learn some lessons to prevent other nations following the UK out. It needs reform of fisheries and agriculture, to focus on people first, and to stand up against the “democratic backsliding” in Poland and Hungary. It needs to recognise that free movement of people works only where the push/pull factors do not result in mass migrations of skilled and educated citizens, causing major problems at both ends – Romania and the UK for example. These problems need real solutions.

Allocating Blame

As we take time to absorb the prospect of a 5 year far right Tory administration with a hefty majority capable of inflicting massive pain on the ordinary citizen whilst asset stripping remaining public property to assist in the re-election of Trump, it would be good to allocate blame.

Firstly to David Cameron for being stupid enough to call the EU Referendum, expecting an easy win but managing, in the process, to create such deep societal divisions that they will take decades to heal, and possibly not in my lifetime.

Secondly to Theresa May for being stupid enough to call a General Election thinking she could increase her majority and in fact losing it, forcing her to do a deal with the DUP Devil and her own right wingers. For being stubborn enough and putting herself above the national interest in not forming a national convention to agree a consensus path to EU Exit, instead setting red lines that precluded all hope of that consensus.

Third to Jeremy Corbyn for credibility-destroying fence sitting over a second confirmatory referendum and for not agreeing to a temporary Ken Clarke / Harriet Harman administration to deliver a second referendum. For stupidly agreeing to a General Election when it wasn’t necessary.

Fourth to Jo Swinson for also stupidly agreeing to that General Election, thinking naively that the Brexit Party would deliver the Lib Dems dozens more seats only to see that rug pulled away. And for stubbornly refusing to allow Corbyn to be a temporary PM to take over from Johnson when he was on the ropes and about to be knocked out.

Fifth to Nick Clegg for agreeing to that ridiculous PR Referendum that wasn’t PR and so enshrining FPTP that allows parties with a minority of the vote to get a significant majority of seats. Should have been top up seats like the other assemblies and parliaments. Tried, trusted, clearly works.

Sixth, to all the non-Tory/Brexit candidates that fought each other to allow Tory candidates through. Well done for that. Anti-Brexit parties actually got a majority of the vote but a significant minority of seats due to lack of collaboration.

Do I blame Johnson or Farage. Absolutely not. They are opportunists that recognised exactly how to destroy their opponents and win the seats even when not winning the popular vote. Everyone else played straight into their lying conniving hands. I could blame those who believed the lies but if we’re honest most people were not that stupid and knew they were being lied to – they just preferred those liars to the other ones. But I will blame, seventh, Labour party members who elected Corbyn as their leader twice, when a centrist Labour leader would have wiped the floor with Johnson and Co.

Tory Brexit Failures

I’m sick of Tory politicians blaming others for their abject failure to deliver Brexit. It is true that most Labour and Tory MPs signed up to Article 50 and stood on manifestos committing them to respect the results of the 2016 Referendum. However, bearing in mind that Brexit is not a binary issue, Labour did not commit to supporting a Tory interpretation of Leave into which they had zero input.

Had Theresa May been a collaborative leader, keen to find a consensus, we would now be in Transition, outside the EU, and negotiating trade deals everywhere. But she chose to design her own Withdrawal Agreement and blueprint for the future, adding red lines that no-one confirmed in a public vote. She reluctantly, at a very late date, decided to have talks with Labour but refused to budge on anything of significance – phoney talks for appearance sakes.

The sensible approach would have been an all-party constitutional convention to work through all the options and come up with a proposal that could be supported by an overwhelming majority of MPs, accepting that to Lib Dems, the SNP, and some others, any form of Leave would be unsupportable; nothing you can do about that. The Tories were not sensible though. They have tried to force through a hardcore Brexit that did not have a popular or parliamentary mandate and, thanks to Speaker Bercow, didn’t get away with it. Now they are keen to blame others for failing to back their narrow and dangerous extremism, including the latest Johnson wheeze to put a Customs border down the Irish Sea.

All Opposition candidates have a duty to counter these Tory excuses and point out their lack of collaboration and consultation with a broad spectrum of viewpoints is a direct cause of their failure to deliver a Brexit that a majority of people and MPs could support. They are the authors of their own misfortune and you cannot trust them any longer.

Change The Tune

I normally wake to Radio 5 Live news each morning. The volume is set to maximum to ensure a response. Imagine my surprise earlier this week when I awoke to a rather good, very loud, rendition of the Russian National Anthem. All was explained a while later when it was clear that normal programming had been replaced by a Rugby World Cup match between Russia and Scotland. Thankfully Scotland won 61-0.

Russia may be crap at rugby, and drug-cheating baa-lambs at most other sports. But you can’t deny the brilliance of their National Anthem. Some versions give me goosebumps. I’m not keen on Scotland’s Anthem really but it is infinitely better than the official UK National Anthem.

I’ll be upfront about it: I haven’t listened to every country’s National Anthem and objectively ranked them. But if they’ve won a gold medal at an Olympics I’ve probably heard their song. And I’ve taken some hints from sad people who have listened to the lot. With the possible exception of Liechtenstein, I’ve come to the conclusion our God Save The Queen is the worst of the lot. It’s not even about the UK; it’s a toast to an undemocratic birthright leader that once contained a line about an Irishman crushing rebellious Scots. The music is a tedious dirge better suited to a funeral. I would hazard a guess that half the population could not recite the first verse correctly, and 99% could not tell you the content of any other verse, assuming they knew there were other verses. I’d struggle myself on the first verse and have instantly forgotten any hint of those other verses even though I researched them for this post 5 minutes ago. It is the most forgettable anthem as well as the worst. I know no-one that is proud of and loves either words or tune. I don’t recall once in over 50 years when I’ve had the least desire to stand and sing it but am very envious of foreigners with a song to get passionate about. It has to go, relegated to Royal Anthem as it has been elsewhere in the world. At least Liechtenstein’s anthem is about the country.

My Top 10:

  1. Russia. Stirring. Goosebumps, suits huge youth choirs.
  2. France. Don’t know the translation but the music tells me a story.
  3. New Zealand. Simple and sweet with some odd lyrics that don’t always fit the music. Sing it around a campfire accompanied by a guitar.
  4. Australia. An optimistic young and free modern anthem that grows on you.
  5. South Africa. Symbolic of the demise of apartheid.
  6. Wales. Beautiful. The best version was the old HTV Wales closedown music.
  7. Italy. Bonkers intro but worthy of the home of great opera. Fantastic finale.
  8. Chile. A cross between a circus parade and beer hall drinking song.
  9. Ireland (Ireland’s Call). Symbolic foot tapper played when the united Irish rugby team take to the field. Quite like the Irish Republic’s tune too
  10. Senegal. Reminiscent of a 1950’s film score. No idea how you sing to it.

So what do we replace the dirge with? Jerusalem is for the English only, and we should have our own for when we compete in sports events as England. For the UK it has to be Land of Hope and Glory. I can see a time when we’re all proudly belting that one out in a way we can never do with the royal toast song. But let’s not do a Referendum and split the country 48%-52% between Land of Hope and Glory and the Birdie McBirdface Song.