Populist Politics + Liberal Democracy + Social Media = Anarchy

Following on from my recent blog Is Populist Democracy an erosion of Democratic Values much of what is anticipated played out in Washington last week. Having lived in the USA I have always found it difficult to accept the USA as a true democracy. The land of the free is a corruption of the concept of democracy especially when anyone has the right to bear arms on the street. I remember being embroiled in a shootout between police and bad guys in a shopping mall in downtown Buffalo with bullets flying around with neither side being proficient shots nor having any regard for potential collateral damage.

It is claimed that Donald Trump fanned the flames that caused a mob dedicated to Trump to storm Congress. Much for the World to understand about the state of mind of the USA not least the behaviour of the security services and police who essentially refused to confront this mob. Quite rightly much has been made about the contrast between the security deployed during the recent Black Lives Matter march on the White House and that deployed last week against a majority white mob.

And now Nancy Polosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, wants to apply her usual emotional and illogical reason to fan these flames further by screaming for impeachment of Donald Trump. No matter what her personal feelings towards Donald Trump if she is to respect democracy, she must respect the outcome of the Presidential Elections and understand that some 47% of the USA electorate voted for Trump, the second largest number of votes in US election history. This 47% have it in their heads, much through social media, that their man was cheated out of office. Their actions caused Trump to completely back off and is not totally neutered in disgrace. Why does Polosi not understand that the pragmatic approach is to allow these flames to ebb by quietly securing support from the Senate to distance themselves from Trump thus further neutralising him. There are but 10 days left before inauguration of Biden. There is no possibility of securing impeachment in this window, and I’m sure that Biden has more pressing issues on his desk. She must think about uniting the people behind Biden, especially now he can look forward to control of both Houses.

Wake up Nancy. Your personal outrage towards Trump should not be played out in your political role. If I were Biden she would most certainly lose her office. Furthermore, social media have now seen for themselves the impact of putting ‘freedom’ into the hands of the mob. I think it was Voltaire who said ‘Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. It is now time to instil responsibility into the social media platforms.

BREXIT: London Evening Standard or should it be Londoner Abend Standard

I had the need to visit London yesterday on medical grounds, collecting a copy of the London Evening Standard to read on my way home. Important editorial warning of the ever-increasing likelihood of London rising to tier 3 because of the rapid increase in Covid-19 infections is consigned to the bottom corner with the blazing headlines and main editorial focused on the doom and gloom of a no BREXIT deal. Whilst I appreciate that, overall, the vote in London to remain in the EU was marginally more than 50%, and the former schoolboy Chancellor now editor George Osborne is heart on sleeve Remainer, what happened to balanced reporting? And, of course, the doom and gloom can only be described as originating from the stable of Lord Haw-Haw.

But who are these people in London who cannot accept that we have already left the EU and now want to ensure that UK sovereignty is not compromised by any future arrangements with the EU? I know that some have vested self-interests which can only be described as selfish and certainly not in the long-term best interests of the UK. Remember the Corn Law wars. Others probably have property within the EU and selfishly do not want any added burden to their usage thereof. But surely there has been enough press on these negotiations to understand that the EU is fearful of the future enterprise of the UK embarrassing the EU and thus want to have the capability to rein in and stifle such economic prosperity as there is no doubt that the UK will certainly lead the EU in technology and innovation. You only need to see how many very bright young people have already departed the EU to the UK, USA, Canada, and Australia to know where they think their future lies.

Let us blow one myth currently touted by Remainer – the people of this country did NOT vote to leave the EU with a Trade Deal, they voted to rid themselves of the shackles of the EU. The current so-called Trade Deal is a blatant attempt by the EU to replace some of the shackles to UK prosperity and well-being all in the name of maintaining the integrity of the Single Market, the most protectionist market in the World. A no-deal BREXIT is by far a better scenario than one which continues to shackle the UK to the delusions of grandeur of the EU elite. Let me make my argument.

The EU, as a trading bloc, is possibly, but not certainly the largest trading partner of the UK as some UK business recorded by the EU is only in transit through the EU to non-EU destinations. These transactions will certainly continue regardless of the outcome of trade discussions. The UK’s largest single trading partner is the USA, and the UK is the third largest export market of Germany. Yesterday a German Minister was reported to state that a no-deal BREXIT will cost some 700,000 jobs in Germany, a serious economic impact.

The current net trade imbalance between the UK and the EU is EUR1 billion per WEEK in favour of the EU. Thus, the UK is an important trading partner for the EU.

The UK imports some EUR37 billion of perishables from France per year. What will happen to this produce if France throws its toys out of the pram and blocks this business, or prices it out of the market with tariffs? The French Government finally alerted producers in France last week that the UK has already sourced some 50% of this produce outside of the EU at cheaper sourcing prices, and the EU is not currently able to absorb this reduction in trade. These are perishable good with a finite usefulness so cannot be stored or held up by unwieldly red tape at ports. We are talking of EUR 700 million per week which is much transport logistics, and many thousands of people’s livelihoods. If these products are not freely and swiftly delivered, I predict the producers and supply chain will be on the streets in French cities, and some will burn.

Another French childish idiosyncrasy is the announcement that UK citizens will only be allowed to visit France for up to 90-days in any 180-day period. Considering that President Macron was a former banker does he not understand that people who choose to have extended visits to France spend money there which probably supports the economies of towns and villages they frequent?

Another announcement that also is absurd. The EU have announced that transport from the UK can only be single destination within the EU, the same with pick-up. Economically and environmentally ridiculous. Have the Londoner Remainers not noticed how may distribution hubs have been built in the UK this past year? The UK can play this silly game by restricting foreign lorries to one of these hubs from where goods will be distributed throughout the UK by local transport thus providing jobs here.

Another myth is there will be significantly more paperwork involved in a no-deal structure. Do the people of London think that UK firms only deal with the EU? Do the people of London think that UK trade with the EU will continue with existing paperwork in the event of an EU trade deal? Trading paperwork will comply with International Standards thus for exporters not wholly exporting to the EU little will change. In any event they will find that astute corporates have already reduced their exposure to the EU.

I heard a cynical so-called expert from the fishing industry (where does the media find these ‘experts’) say there is little or no benefit of UK fishermen resuming control of UK waters because most of the catch goes to the EU who will block trade. I remember when the fishing industry in the UK was decimated by the UK submission to the Common Fisheries Policy. It will take time to rebuild UK fishing fleets. An opportunity exists for existing UK fishing fleets. The shop and restaurants of the EU will still need fish. Where else can they get them? If the EU wants to impose tariffs the cost will be borne by the EU buyers, not the margins of the fishermen.

Another, no doubt, tale to spook is BMW intend to transfer production of the mini to Germany. Good luck with that one. They should learn by the woes of Jaguar Landrover who, a few years back, announced they wanted to build Jaguar cars in the USA, that is until they were told in no uncertain terms by the Jaguar Owners Club in the USA that their members would only buy cars built in the UK. Although Jaguar Landrover may have heeded that warning they decided to build the Landrover Discovery Sports in Croatia only to find that they cannot sell them in the UK. Production is now being transferred back to the UK. No knowledgeable car manufacturer will move production from the UK if they want to sell their vehicles. The Mercedes F1 racing team is not only championed by a British driver; the car is designed and built in Northampton, UK. Only the Mercedes badge is possibly produced in Germany.

The biggest laugh for me is the EU demand to have some regulatory control over the activities of the City of London, the financial capital of the World. I was part of the Passport negotiation with Jacques Delours and Prof Tickle with M. Barnier as a bit player. They came with demands from Germany to levy withholding taxes on trades with German citizens and any trade in German Bund. Delusional. They were told that they comply with International trading rules or go away. They now say the financial community in the City will only have restricted access to the EU. They forget that the Euro is and will remain cleared through London – embarrassing for such an important (in their mind) institution. The EU has no financial capacity to absorb the EU based derivatives so will continue in London. If any member State, or EU corporate wants to raise capital it must come to London. This will not change. So much for the mighty EU.

If I were strategically managing negotiations with the EU, in the event they are not willing to remove all the cynical Sovereign handcuffs from the deal I would concede to a no-deal scenario and prepare for WTO rules. I predict, by first quarter-end 2021 the EU will be back looking for a deal. The UK will have a bumpy transition but would under either scenario, and it’s clear that the Stock Market investors are not concerned either way. Investors are the people who put their money where their mouth is so others should listen. It should also be remembered that losing the UK will have far reaching negative impacts on the EU from which they might not recover. The German economy is built on a similar incestuous model as was seem in Japan in the 1970/80’s until it imploded. The UK does not want to be anywhere close to the EU when this happens. I shall also watch with interest as Putin imposes and interferes with the much-weakened EU, especially because the insane energy policy of Germany leaves them totally exposed to Russia. Without the influence of the UK, I think Putin will become emboldened in his dealings with the EU.

In summary I would suggest that Londoners still sleepwalking wake up to the reality that we have already left the EU. Whether or not we have a trade deal with the EU is of small consequence against our long-term freedom and prosperity. I would suggest when Londoners are free to travel the globe again, they stop someone in the street where they are and ask them a simple question – can you show me on a map where the EU and its capital, Brussels, is located? Then when their confused look diminishes ask them where the UK and its capital, London are located. Then remember what it is to be British and think of that quintessential Englishman, Captain Sir Tom and his true blue British view that tomorrow will be a better day.

BREXIT Negotiations and the General Election

 

BREXIT Negotiations and the General Election

 

Enough, enough of this childish behaviour. The desperation of the EU regarding BREXIT has now reach such a crescendo that long-standing political protocols have been ignored by Jean-Claude Junker and his merry men. His obvious frustration that he cannot impose his will on the British Government clearly demonstrates that the original view held by the British that he was not suitable for the job at the time of his appointment has indeed proven correct. I can only hope that Michel Barnier took him to the woodshed and firmly dealt with him.

 

Although Michel Barnier has refrained from making the same mistake he also demonstrates a lack of understanding of the British way. He hears the noisy whingers in the UK who fail to accept democracy, but he fails to understand they are the few; the silent majority will prevail as is always the case, so take your interfering rhetoric elsewhere. The Brits understand the stress you are under, not least because of the some 3.1B EUR of CAP subsidy that the French will lose each year after BREXIT. My message to Michel Barnier is use this as an opportunity to scrap the CAP which is well past it’s sell-by date. It is interesting that the NFU, representing British farmers, do not want to continue with such subsidy. They apparently want to follow the model successfully introduced in New Zealand where subsidy has been scrapped, but funds made available for bad years. This model works, so why does the EU insist that the UK supports the EU CAP until 2025? The CAP is not some long-term capital commitment; it’s a benefits system subject to fiscal policy.

 

Then we have the clap-trap rhetoric of the schoolboy brigade led by tiny Tim Fallon and Nick Clegg, and the obvious nationalist – ‘we will abuse any opportunity to seek independence’ – Nicola Sturgeon, suggesting our opening approach to the exit negotiations should be “compromise” and “concessions”. I was schooled in negotiation in the late 1970’s under Andrew Gottschalk, the then guru of international negotiations. I still have his Pocket Negotiator summarising the various stances that can be taken. None of them would include such words. At best one might use “reasonable” or “equitable” if both parties were amenable to a sensible negotiation. Having negotiated complex settlements throughout the World over the years I would enjoy negotiating BREXIT. Boy, would reality kick in regarding the rose-tinted spectacles of the EU mandarins. Coming to the table demanding money before discussing any consideration is contempt of the Lisbon Treaty which states that the whole divorce deal needs to be agreed as a single package. Anything else, such as a speedy conclusion of the rights of EU and UK citizens, is by mutual consent. But even this simple issue is marred by the ridiculous notion by the EU mandarins that EU citizens residing in the UK should be protected under EU, rather than UK law.

 

I chose to ignore the rambo rhetoric of Angela Merkel at this time as, having returned somewhat bruised from her visit with Donald Trump, she is now fighting for her political future in the upcoming elections. Her words are meant to placate the German public, and thus should be ignored in the UK.

 

Teresa May has shown true British grit, and now she wants her own mandate for all to see as she readies herself to battle in what will be an acrimonious divorce – not because of the UK, but more to dissuade other members from deserting the sinking ship. The more divisive it becomes the more likely the EU will collapse under its own intransigence.

 

I decided to examine the real issues at stake with our exit from the EU. Let us start with the emotional fear generated by the undemocratic remainers regarding trade, and their irrational fear of leaving the Single Market and Customs Union rules. I chose 2015 as a base year thinking that the ink would be dry by now on actual trade. I looked, primarily, towards OBR for the UK, and OEC for the EU. Was there any correlation – absolutely not. Little wonder that the accounts for the EU have not been signed-off for so many years. Therefore, I will use figures generally in agreement, but only for qualitative illustration purposes of the likely impact of a clean BREXIT.

 

Before looking at reported trade numbers it was interesting to note that some 40% of UK exports go to the EU, but this has been falling over recent years as a percentage of non-EU exports which appear to be increasing at some 2% per annum. It was also noted that this 40% included exports of petroleum products and gold to non-EU countries, but passing through Rotterdam. It would be interesting to know what percentage of the 40% of such high value trade represents as it could demolish the frequently stated rhetoric of the remainers that the EU is the UK’s largest export partner, and gold represents some 9.8% of total UK exports.

 

The 2015 figures reveal that the UK receives some 17% of total EU exports. The UK’s largest partner in the EU is Germany with a net UK deficit of some $54B. The UK is the 3rd largest export market in the World for Germany. The UK is also the 9th largest export economy in the World.

 

If we use the available numbers for 2015 regarding UK exports the principal recipients were USA $54.7B, Germany $39.5B, Switzerland $32.5B, China 27.6B, and Netherlands $23.9B (which possibly includes the non-EU petroleum products previously mentioned).

 

On the UK imports side our significant partners are Germany $93.9B, China $62.8B, USA $44.8B, Netherlands £44.4B, and France $37.6B.

 

Another interesting reveal was that GDP per capita for the UK and Germany are about the same at $48k.

 

If we use the available numbers for the UK with our largest trading partner in the EU, Germany, for illustration purposes we see that the UK exports $39.5B to Germany, and imports $93.9B from Germany leaving a trade deficit of $54. Let us assume that the EU mandarins are so enraged with BREXIT that they throw good economic sense to the winds such that the UK has to fall-back on WTO rules at some average 4% tariff. In this case the UK would charge enough in tariffs on German imports to repay UK exporters tariffs imposed by Germany and have funds left in the exchequer. This can only hurt Germany, resulting in a possible decline in German exports to the UK and the resulting loss of income and jobs. Politicians may think they have such power, but more than 30 years in international banking has taught me that, other than despotic dictatorships, business will prevail. Trade will continue, and consequently to the advantage of the UK.

 

As we are flooded with the French Presidential election at this time; both candidate seeking change in the EU, albeit from different angles, I will reiterate my view on the French stance on denying/restricting trade with the UK post-BREXIT. As with previous elections in France I do not envisage any change other than what the people demand on the streets. As much of the UK imports from France are farm produce and wine there is no possibility that the French people will allow any interference to this trade, even if this means flouting EU rules which, of course never apply to the French in any event. Also, why would the UK remotely consider continued support of the CAP if we did not have tariff free access to the produce?

 

I can imagine that the real thorn in the side of Brussels is the loss of the City of London. The EU have already been told that they are not fit to clear their own currency; the clearing must stay in London. There will be no credible capital raising power within the EU – mein Got. Deutsche Bank and ING have already committed more resources to London. Then we have the credit reference agencies threatening to downgrade the EU credit rating post-BREXIT. How could this happen to what the EU mandarins consider a superstate? How embarrassing. What a reality check.

 

International banks will need to open a token banking presence in each EU country in which they want to engage, as was the case prior to passporting. But the business will be conducted in London, as usual. Even New York has failed to attract such business as international investors want the security of English Law, the legal system built around international finance, and the most trusted in the World.

 

The cost to the EU of such a loss is enormous, both in cost and influence. So, will the City lose passporting – my bet is not.

 

So, what else does the EU lose? A shortlist would include the loss of a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the global reach and influence of the UK (still grudgingly accepted by the USA, and the British passport is still the most accepted in the World – ask the Scots), second largest contributor to the EU budget, best security services in the World, best EU military power, World class universities (in the top 25: UK 8, Germany 0), et al. What does the UK lose? Not a lot of any value, or that cannot be replaced. What a wonderful position to have at a negotiation.

 

 

 

BREXIT – 120 days on

univestBREXIT – 120 days on

It has been some 120 days post-Brexit, so where do we find ourselves when measured against the doom and gloom of the Remain campaign. We have a new PM, Teresa May who appears clear on what Brexit means, discovery that global organisations such as the IMF knowingly misled the British people, even the principal architect of the Eurozone claiming that it is now a ‘House of Cards’, and churlish self-interests trying to scupper Brexit with no regard for the democracy that they claim to cherish.

It is really sad for me to see that, amongst a significant number of people spanning all classes, there are elements of the British character that do no justice to our heritage of the UK great explorers and inventors that shaped this World of ours. I watched in disdain the current and excellent TV costume drama ‘Victoria’ recounting the trials and tribulations of Queen Victoria who reigned during the Industrial Revolution as scaremongers, vested interests, self-righteous, and ‘not-invented-here’ jealousy tried to stop the introduction of the steam locomotive. Thankfully, Prince Albert saved the day. Even today I hear eco-warriors stating that the Industrial Revolution was the beginning of the end of mankind, but where would these people, or even the World be without trains. India thrives on the railways, whereas Brazil, without much needed rail infrastructure, has serious transport and thus economic problems – look at the speed of rail infrastructure development in China.

Then I am reminded of the Neville Chamberlain pacifist era before the second world war when Winston Churchill, with his worldly experience, could see the ambitions of Hitler but, in spite of his fine rhetoric, could not persuade enough people that we needed to prepare ourselves for the inevitable. Indeed, according to Boris Johnson in his captivating book ‘The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History’, had the war been delayed by some two weeks Churchill would already have been hounded out of office!

We are told that we must learn from the past, but do we? During the referendum debate we had the David Cameron, George Osborne and Nick Clegg elite, all from privileged schooling, all career politicians with ideologies not supported by any worldly experience, and easily persuaded by more scurrilous and self-serving influences, preaching doom and gloom if we did not stay part of the EU project. They rallied any vested interest they could find including the IMF, the OECD, and President Obama – an embarrassing chapter for all of them. But history will not record any of them as good, let alone great politicians. David Cameron was clear in his Bloomberg address that if the UK did not get significant Treaty changes for the UK then he would vote out, yet like Chamberlain he returned from Berlin with a worthless piece of paper. He will be remembered as someone who readily changed his mind on substantial matters – not good leadership. But he has realised the errors of his ways and will fade quietly away. Osborne still finds occasion to try to placate his ego, and Clegg is now trying to rally support for a blatant counter-offensive to Brexit on the basis that people do not know what Brexit means. Let me assure him that the core ‘middle-England blue-blooded Brits’ that always save the day in times of need know precisely what it means – a clean exit from the EU in all respects, returning to a Sovereign State, just like most other countries in the World. As has been shown since Brexit, the UK is a major player in this World, and when we sneeze the World coughs. The EU needs the UK far more than the UK needs the EU.

So what has happened since Brexit. I would suggest that the most significant outcome is the clear demonstration of how the elite politics of today is so out of touch with reality, as is being played out in the USA today. What did go on behind closed doors that caused Cameron to accept that the UK should be sacrificed for ‘the greater good of Europe’? How many more times does the UK have to make significant sacrifices for Europe before Europe (mainly Germany) learns from it?

Let me take some words from a Telegraph article summarising a post-Brexit report from the IMF’s Independent Evaluation Office (IEO). This report goes above the head of the managing director, Christine Lagarde. It answers solely to the board of executive directors, and those from Asia and Latin America are clearly incensed at the way EU insiders used the Fund to rescue their own rich currency union and banking system. It states:

‘The International Monetary Fund’s top staff misled their own board, made a series of calamitous misjudgments in Greece, became euphoric cheerleaders for the euro project, ignored warning signs of impending crisis, and collectively failed to grasp an elemental concept of currency theory.

This is the lacerating verdict of the IMF’s top watchdog on the Fund’s tangled political role in the eurozone debt crisis, the most damaging episode in the history of the Bretton Woods institutions.

It describes a “culture of complacency”, prone to “superficial and mechanistic” analysis, and traces a shocking break-down in the governance of the IMF, leaving it unclear who is ultimately in charge of this extremely powerful organisation.’

The IEO Report states that since 2011 some 80% of all IMF lending was secretly used to support the Euro – not within the mandate of the IMF, and why Asia and Latin America are so incensed. Add to this the recent publication by Prof Otmar Issing, the first chief economist of the ECB and principal architect of the Euro, in which he states that the rules laid down for the Euro have been so debased by politicians that the currency, and thus the Eurozone, is but a ‘House of Cards’ waiting to collapse. Thus the desperate need to keep the fastest growing economy in the Western World, the UK, inside the EU, not least because of the unique capital raising power of the City of London – thus the lies to the British public by both the IMF and the OECD during the referendum campaign.

By far the biggest everyday loss to the EU is the City of London. With the City inside the EU it could claim to be the most significant financial power on the international stage. Without it the Eurozone does not even have the capacity to clear its own currency. The EU desperately needs the capital raising powers of the City. All of this posturing regarding passporting can be put into perspective by ING announcing last week that it is moving some 40 of its prominent traders from two locations within the EU to London. The worst case scenario is we will return to the days before passporting whereby, under the rules that international banks can only engage in business in countries in which they have a physical presence, banks will re-establish little more than a rep office through which transactions will be directed to London. As for moving banking to Frankfurt and/or Paris it should be noted that during my more than 35 years in the City this has been muted on a number of occasions. Paris is a non-starter for a number of technical reasons, and Frankfurt for even more including that no self-respecting high flier banker would consider living there.

As for corporate business I think that the recent announcement by Apple, the largest company in the World, that it is moving and consolidation its European headquarters in London, with all of the tax implications included, states the blindingly obvious – London is the gateway to Europe.

In a recent French Presidential Campaign speech by Nicolas Sarkozy he clearly stated that his first day in office (if elected) would be spent in Berlin (note: not Brussels) putting a new EU Treaty together that would address the concerns of the UK to encourage them to stay within the EU. He knows that there will be revolution in France if the farmers got even a whisper that tariff barriers were to be imposed on the UK.

In Germany we also have elections on the horizon. I am certain that the elite of Germany will resign themselves to the inevitable Brexit and thus quietly encourage election results that will ensure that no harm comes to the valuable existing trading relations with the UK.

The principle voices of Angela Merkel in Brussels, Donald Tusk, Martin Schulz, and Jean-Claude Junker, are synonymous with the problems faced by the EU. On the one hand they are stating that the EU will survive Brexit. On the other that are issuing instructions to member states to clamp down on rising nationalism.

The good news is that GBP has depreciated from its over-valued level by some 17% causing the UK Stock Market to regain some of its lost value over recent years, and provide the stimulus for the return for a much increased manufacturing base – jobs, prosperity, less dependency on imports. It should be remembered that Germany pushed through the Eurozone project to devalue the over-inflated Deutshemark by some 30% – great for Germany, but a disaster for most other members.

This devaluation will mean price increases to the UK consumer of imported goods and thus stimulate much needed, but controlled inflation reducing the need for QE and restoring interest rates to more normal economic levels. Some of this increase could be artificial as EU Governments put pressure on their major suppliers to increase prices to the UK as per the much publicised Unilever to Tesco increases which resulted in an embarrassing climb-down by Unilever. The real price increases will put upward pressure on wage demands – good for the workers who generate the wealth but contained to 2% pa or less wage growth over recent years, but not so good for fat executives who have enriched themselves with wage growth of around 10% pa during the same period. Also we can be competitive manufacturers and return to the days of ‘Buy British’. We can even return to eating our own delicious apples, currently outlawed by the EU to force import from the likes of France. The UK Government could easily buffer the increased price of fuel and energy (increases not EU related) by reducing, or indeed eliminating all of the absurd anti-competitive eco taxes on UK energy prices.

Trading with the World, including Europe will certainly not get worse, but is likely to improve. The intransigence of the EU Commission regarding trade with the EU is legion – ask the Americans. Our global relationships will prosper far more after the dust of Brexit has settled.

The issues we face today are the posturing, petulance, grandstanding, etc by both a dying EU and those die-hard remainers in the UK who have jettisoned democracy in favour of their own self-interests. This causes turbulence in the markets, no doubt exacerbated by the more influential remainers. The professional financial markets love such turbulence as they use it to generate good profits. The losers are the general public in whose lives the media relish creating uncertainty, and which impacts their cost of living resulting in understandable protest. How many media outlets have directly associated recent fuel price increases with Brexit? Oil prices are recovering from two years of global turmoil, and should settle around US$60 per barrel. The UK has a much needed currency devaluation regardless of Brexit. De facto prices will increase from their extraordinary lows over recent months regardless of Brexit. I can remember when oil prices were US$16 per barrel, and more recently US$120 per barrel – but neither to do with the EU or Brexit.

Brexit has not yielded doom and gloom, not even a technical recession. The UK is now projected as the fastest growing Western economy. Just as with the resistance to the steam locomotive in Victorian times it is time to ignore the doomsayers and grasp the opportunities that now present themselves so that, as with the proliferation of railways, the UK will again rise be a major and great player in this World in its own name.

 

2-weeks post-BREXIT. Where are we?

univest2-weeks post-BREXIT. Where are we?

The EU Referendum has raised a number of issues that show why this referendum was needed. During recent years politics has become too elite and detached from the people it is there to serve. A good shakeout is necessary, as is happening in the USA. BREXIT has triggered this process in Europe, and especially the EU. So where are we post-BREXIT?

Scare Story: The UK will suffer unprecedented political turmoil

This is true, but more in the EU than the UK. The reaction at the quickly convened emergency meeting of the European Parliament on the Monday following BREXIT resembled more a Third World bun fight than a rational First World debate. The exchange of insults and rebuke was extraordinary.

The UK political turmoil has shown that David Cameron lacks the qualities of a true leader. Having consented to a referendum on the basis of a reformed EU, which he did not achieve, a strategically capable leader would have returned from Brussels to announce his frustration with Brussels, and then overseen the referendum debate without expressing his own view, or that of the Government, ready to implement the decision of the people (democracy) thus providing the political leadership and continuity post-BREXIT that is currently so lacking. We have a political vacuum until we have a new leader – not good for confidence around the world.

This political vacuum has fuelled an anti-democratic minority to challenge the outcome of the EU Referendum result. It is interesting to note that these whingers obviously have the view that a democracy can only be democratic when the vote result concurs with their view. And these whingers include people like Richard Branson who, reportedly, saw some 30% wiped off his Virgin empire. The people have spoken and, with a larger turnout than your average General Election, the clear majority voted for BREXIT. In a democracy every citizen has the obligation to make themselves aware of the issue requiring a vote of the people, and to cast their vote accordingly. In this digital age there is no excuse for lack of information. The result is clear, so to the whingers – move on; we will flourish.

The positive result of this turmoil as we approach political summer recess is that the UK Civil Service has time to consider the optimal exit terms for negotiation with the EU, and a period of reflection by the EU machine. As I refine this blog I found an article in yesterday’s London Evening Standard written by Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German Foreign Minister, in which he acknowledges that the EU elite have been indifferent to the voices of the people, causing great unrest. His solution – even faster political and economic integration. Will they ever listen?

Scare Story: The UK markets will collapse with pensions and quality of life in decline, and London will lose its status as the Global Financial Centre

Since the casino players, looking purely to make money from the volatility surrounding the referendum vote, have gone to sleep (when will the G7 address this global destabilising problem) the UK stock markets have stabilised, and indeed risen some 15% – a vote of confidence by investors, and good for pension funds. Adjustments will occur as the UK realigns itself; albeit the attack on commercial property funds is bizarre. Furthermore all talk of the capital markets moving within the EU has evaporated – the underlying covert motive by both the USA and Germany having been neutralised.

Our EU partners have not been so fortunate in that the BREXIT vote has caused much instability within the EU forcing markets down by as much as 15%. Although they have recovered some of these losses there is little evidence of full recovery any time soon. Italy is on the brink of a banking crisis, and there is much discontent within the EU. We have the USA regulators stating that both Deutsche Bank and Banco de Santander fail their stress tests and thus must increase capital if they wish to continue to trade US dollars. And of course VW are looking at considerably more substantial fines around the world. There is also reported a vote of no confidence for the EU to settle Euro transactions.

The doomsayers claim that the 10% fall in sterling against the US dollar is a major disaster for the UK. On the contrary sterling has been over-valued for some time damaging the ability of the UK to sell its goods overseas. As I write this blog sterling has recovered to 1.29. It would be better for the UK economy if this rate fell below 1.26 for a few months before the US Presidential elections will likely deflate the US dollar, pushing the value of sterling up again. I would remind the whingers that when Germany pushed for the introduction of the Euro the result for Germany was an effective significant devaluation of the Deutschemark which was much needed by the German economy to trade themselves out of the grossly underestimated cost of reunification – but at a real cost to all other Eurozone members.

Scare Story: The UK will require years to negotiate new trade deals with the Single Market and the World

There are a number of countries, including the USA and Germany, who want to be first to sign trade deals with the UK. There is much confusion being hoisted by the whingers about the single market. The UK does not need to be part of the single market for the same reasons that are frustrating the trade deal between the EU and the USA (who already trade more with the EU than does the UK). What we need is tariff-free trade deals with each of the member states who wish to engage with us. If Germany can do this then why not all other member states? The EU is fragmenting, and will need significant reform if it is to survive – including trade relationships. Regardless of the political rhetoric Germany will not risk the loss of its significant exports to the UK, and France will follow.

Scare Story: UK citizens will lose the right to freely travel, work and live in the EU countries

Today UK citizens need a passport to travel into the EU member States, and to return from them. Travelling freely within the EU countries is defined by the Schengen Agreement between member States and thus does not change anything for UK citizens. Moving to an EU member State may change, but looking at the number of EU citizens living in the UK reciprocity is the likely outcome.

Scare Story: The UK is too small and insignificant to go it alone

The UK coughed on the 23rd June, and the whole world sneezed, and is still sneezing. The UK has always punched well above its weight, and always will. London is the most important global financial centre in the world, and thanks to BREXIT, will retain this status. The EU loses one of its two permanent seats at the UN Security Council, and loses the global diplomatic reach enjoyed by the UK. As the fifth largest economy in the world the UK will find its feet over the coming months, and then flourish. The EU may not be so lucky.

 

A few days ago I listened to an interesting discussion regarding the total breakdown of the former USSR. The original discussions with Gorbachev revolved around the satellite states adjoining the eastern borders of Western Europe. However, as the Berlin Wall fell practically all members of the USSR declared their own freedom from Moscow. The view was that Moscow thought it could impose a homogeneous citizen unity across the USSR without any regard for the diverse nature and cultures of each nation state. Thus laws and regulations formulated in Moscow intended to create a homogeneous USSR caused resentment and unrest in these States – the response being typical Roman-type repression by Moscow, and ultimately downfall. Even the Romans knew better when they built their empire. What could the EU learn from this? Brussels relentlessly moves towards a United States of Europe without the consent of the people. Whether they use brute force, or financial pain they attempt to impose their will over each member State. The majority of people in the UK have said ‘NO’, and I fully expect others to follow.

A few weeks before the referendum vote I listened to an interesting debate by university students regarding the EU Referendum. They did not have guest speakers, rather relying on four students on each side of the debate to put their respective cases. The debate was surprisingly articulate. The audience was an estimated 100 students who, after the debate, overwhelmingly voted for BREXIT. This tallies with the young vote of some 25% of 18 – 24 year-olds. The triangle of knowledge for 16 – 24 year-olds (post-university) consists of students who have both the intellect and knowledge to analyse issues, students who have the knowledge but not enough intellect to fully appreciate the issues, and the remainder who prefer to go to the pub and watch football. The proportion of students who have both the intellect and knowledge average around 23%. Thus most of the 25% who voted for BREXIT are likely to have understood why. The other two sectors are likely to take the safe option to stay with what they know, or not vote. Therefore, I do not accept that the older (wiser) voters in any way let the young down. This is why the social engineering of the Blair/Brown Government sending 50% of the young to university was ridiculous, a waste of money, and did nothing for those who leave lesser universities with a degree and considerable debt but with no prospect of the suitable job that was implied was available for them.

I have also heard from the young that they wanted to remain in the EU to take advantage of the Erasmus program to study in Europe not realising that this program has little to do with the EU, but formulated as an exchange program between the universities, and includes universities in the USA. There is no possibility that this will end as a result of BREXIT, not least because of the significant number of European students who want to take advantage of the far superior red brick and CAT universities in the UK.

Just as a footnote, I chose to assess the views of the more canny Scottish voters regarding the post-BREXIT opportunist actions of Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister in Scotland, as I did before the Scottish Independence Referendum. The result then was a resounding vote to stay in the UK. A vote today between the UK and the EU would yield the same result. So Nicola, don’t waste your time as the people do not want your pathway, and I cannot imagine the EU entertaining yet another country joining on a net beneficiary basis in any event. The EU Referendum was on behalf of the whole of the UK, and the people spoke. Let it be. There is a bright tomorrow for the UK, so let us focus on the future together.

BREXIT – In this week of tribute to the Bard

Shakespeare lives here

In tribute to the greatest Bard

Compose some lines, it will be hard,

But once again, we are faced

With treachery, to be embraced

EU reform was his spoken mandate

Failed; now he moves to collaborate

Heed well the falseness of his word

The fear to force you into herd.

 

Those who claim to fight our case

Have failed, but want that we remain in place

What do they have us to believe?

That they knowest best; are we naïve?

EU citizens with their feet do vote

The UK is the place they bloat

We would like to welcome those

Who satisfy our needs and goals.

 

Rule Britannia, let not you fall,

Remember all you do enjoy

May this fair land we love so well

In dignity and freedom dwell

Be remembered those who gave their future

To make this nation free to prosper

Let not your spirit be subdued

By fear of raging platitude.

 

Let’s not to foreigner’s bow

Their voices hollow, not in favour thou

They would not heed to what they say

So why would we bend to their way?

We are made of sterner stuff

With resolve and fortitude, we rebuff

We are strong; not slave to obey

So bid them well, be on your way.

 

Compare ye not with a lesser realm

Who have not our powers to overwhelm

Our omnipotence they do not share

Nor standing and heritage to declare

When we do call, our voice will be heard

They dare not our call to be spurred

They will not treat us with disdain

Lest Europe will despair again.

 

Our past doth show our stealth and pride

Thus let not our omnipotence be denied

And think of England’s pleasant land

Is not for those of foreign land

Who wish to smite our honours past

And crush our national interest

Shout it loud, Britons awake

Lest those abroad your life will take.

 

So harken all you Brits, be true

To what it is you need to do

To save this land, its history share

With those you are yet to bear

Let not your offspring be denied

The hopes and dreams for which men died

Or be defined by those abroad

Whose plan for us is truly flawed.

 

Remember to the words we sang

When faced with that beleaguered land

Vera Lynn, our spirits raised

Again we showed; our courage blazed

‘There’ll always be an England

And England shall be free

If England means as much to you

As England means to me.’

 

And in the words of the great Bard himself:

This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
this earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
this other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.

Shakespeare’s Richard II

BREXIT – What a difference a week makes

univestBREXIT – What a difference a week makes

The past week has yielded so many interesting events that I have shelved my scheduled blog to consider the potential impacts to the whole EU debate.

In no particular order let us start with the UK Budget speech given by George Osbourne last Wednesday. All sounded good with much bravado albeit two of his three fiscal rules were already in shatters. But the economy is growing so such rules are only political rhetoric. However, he used this platform to make a clear statement that the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) had provided evidence that UK exit from the EU would damage the UK economy in the short-term. This statement clearly aggrieved the OBR as, by tea time, they had completely refuted his representations as they only provided (conveniently selected?) views provided by third parties.

Then he expounded the view that we were all in this together as he slashed corporate taxes at the same time as slashing benefit payments (some £4 billion) to the most disadvantaged. Whereas there is no doubt that the welfare budget in the UK does need to be reined in, it cannot be achieved merely by setting arbitrary limits and crossing out figures on a spreadsheet with a complete disregard for social justice. Again, by the end of the week, these welfare cuts had diluted from hard cuts, to a discussion, to kicking into the long grass, to being scrapped with the very public resignation of the Work & Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith who gave an impassioned account of his position on the Sunday morning Andrew Marr show. Let us not forget that this happened to Osbourne in his last budget as well.

Also, during his budget speech, he confirmed that the continued refusal by the EU to relax VAT rules to allow tampons to be zero rated, the so-called tampon tax (some £500 million pa), would result in the taxes collected continuing to be distributed to various women-based charities. The following day David Cameron went to an EU Summit meeting in Brussels regarding the important refugee crisis. Apparently, during a coffee break, all 28 EU leaders agreed to relax the EU VAT rules. Clearly not planned. Has Europe realised that BREXIT is gaining support? How many more rabbits will be drawn from EU hats between now and 23rd June?

It was interesting to tour the Highlands of Scotland a few weeks before the Scottish Independence referendum to test my view that Scotland would be stronger in the Union, and thus the vote would be to stay part of the UK. Having purposely stayed in B&B and small privately owned hotels it was interesting to speak privately with the Scottish people about their thoughts. In those 8 days only one person clearly stated that they wanted independence. Much was offered by the UK Government in fear of the noise by those shouting ‘independence’. Had they copied my trip they would determine that no deals were necessary. Everyone else was keeping their thoughts to themselves because of what they were seeing in places like Glasgow where Alex Salmond’s equivalent of Hitler’s brown shirt nationalistic youth movement were intimidating those who openly wanted to remain with the UK. Come the day the silent majority, proud of their heritage within the UK, prevailed. I would therefore suggest that rabbits from the EU, at this late stage, will not work. Indeed, I think the canny Scots are likely to deal Nicola Sturgeon a blow in the EU referendum. Ouch, Nicola.

Then we have the third fiscal rule imposed upon himself regarding converting the current budget deficit into a surplus by the end of this parliament. The general view on this pronouncement is that he needs a major event, such as an exit from the EU, to provide a credible excuse for missing this target, as most surely will be the case. But not because of misguided ambition as a budget surplus should be the goal for fiscal prudence, but the target has to be reasonably achievable with a balanced approach. Ouch for political ambition.

And Peter Mandelson amused me by suggesting that if Maggie Thatcher was still in charge that she would vote to stay in. Having known her views, I’m sure that she found the surrender of so much UK sovereignty to the EU by Tony Blair in her final years as depressing, and would certainly have returned from negotiations with a credible reform deal before even thinking of such a stand to remain a member. It was also interesting that Mandelson had conveniently forgotten that he proposed we join the Euro. Beware of the so-called Prince of Darkness.

Then I read a City Comment in the London Evening Standard by a journalist with the name of Anthony Hilton. Firstly, he was abusing a quote by a long deceased industrialist, Sir Arnold Hall, “What problem do we have which is so serious that (BREXIT) could possibly provide the answer”? Then he used comparators that demonstrated his armchair approach to journalism. For example, he states that the German economy can operate very well within the EU, so why can’t the UK? If he remotely understood the difference between the German and the UK economies he would understand the answer. Whereas the UK sits with the USA economy as an outsider, or open structure, the German economy is quite the opposite as an insider, or closed structure. Ownership of German companies is protected with incestuous patrimonial linkages between German banks and companies, with preferential proxy votes and cross-shareholdings. Foreign ownership of a German company is so rare that it is major news. An example of the vast difference this closed structure reveals can be illustrated by reference to the steel dumping by China. The incestuous linkages in Germany mean that steel users (car production construction, and other major engineering companies) can be compelled to buy from German steel manufacturers rather than buying cheaper steel being dumped by China. This is protectionism. Our open system cannot compel our companies to use British steel. So when our steel companies suffer the impact of dumping we can do nothing about it because it would require Government intervention – not allowed by the EU. And will Germany fully support an anti-dumping campaign against China – not likely as China is an important market for Germany exports. We should also remember that Germany makes the trade rules within the EU to favour Germany, as with the Euro fiscal policy.

He further cites Wolfgang Schäuble, the German Finance Minister, and one of the nationalistic dinosaurs standing in the way of the much needed radical EU reform, who stated at the recent BCC conference that, after BREXIT, any trade deal with the EU would be conditional on maintaining free movement, and continuation of some form of payment into Brussels. This is typical scaremonger nonsense. Do the USA, or even Canada suffer such impositions in their trade agreements? The German Foreign Minister was far more realistic. He endorsed the view that a free trade deal would be agreed within days of BREXIT irrespective of EU political views not least because the German Government would be bombarded by their major companies and banks because of the high level of exports to the UK, not to mention that imports from Germany to the UK are significantly larger than UK exports to Germany.

I could further dismantle his arguments, but would suggest that he listens to someone like Sir Peter Hargreaves, the co-founder of the very successful Hargreaves Lansdown investment manager, who has a real-world experience and suggest that not only would the UK be better off outside of the EU, but such a stimulus would re-energise the British people to take more pride in the UK, buy British, and put the ‘Great’ back into Britain. For certain the UK has problems in productivity, poor venture investment, and lack of manufacturing. Perhaps a refusal by the EU to provide goods will stimulate the UK to make their own – a boost to employment, and needed reduction in the balance of payments – all positive. We could also relabel our much heralded sparkling wine as Champagne (as do the Americans), retain our traditions of sausages, Cornish pasties, pork pies et al without meddling interference in the British way of life from Brussels.

My final observation for today is the visit by Obama to Cuba. The opportunity to re-engage with Cuba has been staring at Europe for some years, with the doors open to engage. Whilst visiting a few years ago on an exploratory trip ‘America’ still invoked hatred with the Cuban people because of the Bay of Pigs incident. The opportunities for European businesses was considerable, as was the opportunity to substantially re-establish original European businesses in sugar, and other agri-products, as well as new off-shore oil & gas finds. The inward looking nature of the EU has surrendered this opportunity to the USA who will now move in and, no doubt, ignore repatriation of former European assets. The British understand the importance of such opportunities because of their historic trans-global, outward view of the world, in stark contrast to the introspective view of the EU.

Let us hope that the coming weeks are somewhat quieter, and less damaging.

 

 

German Domination of Europe – When will they learn that there is a better way

German Domination of Europe – When will they learn that there is a better way

The poignant D Day events of last Friday reminded me that this year is also the centenary since the start of the First World War, or the Great War as it is more commonly known. Although I have many good friends in Germany, and hold absolutely no prejudice against the German people of today, it occurred to me that, for 100 years, the elite of Germany have attempted to mould Europe in their own image, initially through two catastrophic world wars, and currently through self-serving political and economic influence within the European Union.

It cannot be disputed that the engine-room behind the introduction of the Euro was Germany, and in spite of the so-called stringent rules of entry into the Euro, Germany allowed such rules to be significantly relaxed to allow countries to participate where compliance with the entry rules would result in such countries otherwise unlikely to qualify for entry for years to come. It is no secret that Germany has significantly prospered under the Euro – at the expense of the other member nations. These nations now seek financial support, and the German Government have a hard time selling these bailouts to the already over-taxed German people, albeit a problem created by Germany in its self-serving quest for the domination of Europe.

Sometimes I reflect that Germany, having left Europe devastated in 1945, forgets that much of their subsequent prosperity was built on their substantial participation in the Marshall Plan (whereas the United Kingdom, as victor, did not qualify for any such support and has been required the swallow the cost of the wars, and rebuild using its own resources). As with the so-called super-model of Japanese prosperity in the 1980’s I do not subscribe to the German economic model of today, and certainly would strongly oppose this model being at the centre of the European Union. The current German economic model has a fundamental incestuous instability at its core, just like the proverbial pack of cards, and just as with Japan before its economy collapsed.

And this week the German elite are flexing their self-serving muscle again by instruction Angela Merkel to support a tame federalist like Jean-Claude Juncker as European Commission president, a move that is counter to the fundamental reforms needed by all donor nations – except Germany.

I have just noticed a news headline  ‘German chancellor Angela Merkel has cautioned David Cameron not to use threats of a UK exit from the EU in his campaign to block a federalist candidate from taking the helm of the European Commission.

Without these reforms my view is that the UK should not threaten to leave the EU, but make it very clear to Germany through the promised referendum that the people of the UK do not see their future dominated by the German vision of Europe. Maybe then the UK will have to pick up the pieces of an imploded Europe for the third time.

The Morality of Dishonesty

univestThe Morality of Dishonesty

The following story was relayed to me in a somewhat cruder form last week. The original author is unknown to me. However it had some interesting observations and so I have edited it into a relevant form for today’s society.

A few years ago two armed thieves robbed a bank – one of them shouted: “Don’t move! The money belongs to the bank. Your lives belong to you.”  Immediately all the people in the bank laid on the floor quietly and without panic.

This is an example of how the correct wording of a sentence can make everyone change their world view.

One woman lay on the floor in a provocative manner. The older robber approached her saying, “Madam this is a robbery not a rape. Please behave accordingly.”

This is an example of how to behave professionally, and focus on the goal.

While running from the bank the younger robber (who had a University degree) said to the older robber (who barely finished basic education): “Hey, maybe we should count how much we stole.” The older man replied: “Don’t be stupid. It’s a lot of money so let’s wait for the news channels to be told how much was taken from the bank.”

This is an example of how life experience is more important than a degree.

After the robbery, the manager of the bank said to his accountant: “Let’s call the police.” The accountant replied “Wait – before we do that let’s add to the robbery the £800,000 that we took ourselves a few months ago and claim that it was stolen in the robbery.”

This is an example of taking advantage of an opportunity.

The following day it was reported in the news that the bank was robbed of £3 million.  The robbers counted the money, but they found only £1 million, so they started to grumble. “We risked our lives for £1 million, while the bank’s management stole two million pounds without blinking? Maybe it’s better to learn how to work the system, instead of being a simple robber.”

This is an example of how knowledge can be more useful than power.

Moral:  Give a person a gun, and he can rob a bank – at great personal risk. Give a person a bank, and he can rob everyone – with little personal risk.