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.

A View on post-BREXIT not yet discussed

univestA View on post-BREXIT not yet discussed

In general I tend to agree that the economic data banded around from both sides of the EU Referendum argument to be irrelevant, not least because such data will be skewed by undeclared terms of reference, and vested interests. However, there are referendum issues not being addressed, and a likely outcome scenario not even discussed.

We invariably hear both Cameron and Corbyn declare that we should remain in a REFORMED EU, but has any political commentator asked what they mean by REFORMED, and how they intend to achieve such reform? Not to my knowledge. This is a very important point as I would suggest that the deal that Cameron produced at the start of the referendum is little better in the medium to long-term than the agreement waved at the people by Chamberlain just before WWII.

As a seasoned player in real-world geo-politics and geo-economics for over 35 years I would like to suggest a likely outcome of a BREXIT vote. Certainly there will be much hostile media posturing by EU mandarins, not least to try to prevent a rush to the exit by other member States. However, behind closed doors the mood will be far more sober as Germany almost certainly cannot sustain the EU without the UK. It is reasonably certain that free trade will continue as the German Government could not sustain the wrath of its corporate giants who export much to the UK, and we are well versed in the way that French farmers will bring the French Government into line. What I expect to happen is a call between Berlin (not Brussels) and London to determine what reforms would change the view of the British people. Thus the period following BREXIT would more likely be Treaty reform to put to the UK to keep the UK in. The UK Referendum result is not legally binding on the UK Government so a vote in the House of Commons to accept a revised (reformed) EU Treaty with a General Election in sight would likely keep us in the EU. The BREXIT would merely accelerate the reforms that are generally accepted as needed throughout most member States, with the full support of most member States. Thus a BREXIT vote could see us as a good citizen of Europe.

Another important factor in this debate is the supremacy of English Law, especially in trade and finance. The reason that the City of London is the financial centre of the world is the global confidence in English Law over all others relating to trade, capital markets, and insurance. If this is diluted by EU supremacy then the resulting instability will be felt globally, as well as UK GDP. During my career Frankfurt has attempted on two occasions to steal part of this valuable asset, and France continues to dream of doing the same. Retaining the supremacy of English Law in this EU arena is vital to UK prosperity.

As for the global impact of BREXIT there is no doubt that there will be a short period of volatility but I would suggest that such volatility will pale against the global impact of the recent adjustment in China and its continued economic slowdown, and a Trump victory in November. Unfortunately, we live in times of a new breed of unscrupulous large blocks of wealth that avariciously feed on volatility purely for greed, and they have the wealth to exaggerate such volatility to maximise their profit. When will the G7 address this global instability?

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

Is Putin really orchestrating the disintegration of Europe?

univestIs Putin really orchestrating the disintegration of Europe?

I have just finished reading a report on Bloomberg News titled ‘From Rape Claim to Brexit, Putin Machine Tears at Europe’s Seams’ by Arne Delfs and Henry Meyer citing incidents such as the ‘Lisa Affair’ in Germany as evidence that Putin is orchestrating the disintegration of Europe. This claim is worth a little exploration.

There is no doubt that the paranoia that is Putin sees a strong Europe as a direct threat to Russia, especially along its borders – Ukraine being a prime example. As Russia is not in a position to rapidly grow in spite of its energy reserves then his strategy must be to weaken his perceived enemy – classic Sun Tzu. We have also witnessed his desire to be seen as a major influence in the World with his intervention in Syria. So can he manipulate the disintegration of Europe?

The evidence presented in the Bloomberg report would suggest that he can, and indeed, is exploiting the weakness in the EU system. But is he a primary mover, or just having a little mischievous fun exploiting the clear fault lines in the EU model as retaliation for the embargo imposed on Russia for past mischief?

For anyone to exploit a large system such as the EU in this way there must be inherent weaknesses that can be exploited. We saw during the Ukraine crisis that the response by the West had to be tempered because of the overwhelming reliance on energy supplies from Russia by Germany (some 84% against the UK 4%). Why would a so-called major economy allow itself to engage in an energy policy which left them so vulnerable? Why should the West allow such an economy to influence its response?

What I have observed over many years is that every time a closed system tries to impose itself on other systems the oppressor fails, e.g. Germany on Europe, Russia on USSR. Even the Romans, during their expansionism, knew that that had to befriend the conquered and only impose changes regarding the needs of Rome in exchange for protection. They knew that they could not possibly hold the line of their empire if they tried to completely impose their will over the oppressed. Indeed, they used a philosophy that made it an honour to elevate the compliant to the status of a Roman citizen – probably the first peoples honours system.

Putin appears to be exploiting the clear divisions in the EU regarding the attempted imposition of the German way, albeit under the Brussels umbrella, on the other EU members. Of course, as with all such closed States, they believe that they have a successful model which they would like to share (impose) on others to allow them to indulge in the prosperity of their system. I have argued in previous blogs that there are inherently fatal flaws in the incestuous German closed system akin to Japan in the 1980’s and thus will ultimately fail. The nearest closed system to that of Germany within the EU is France albeit that the closed system in France consists of nationalised industries and banks – the topical example being EdF – and France is technically bankrupt.

But Germany has shown itself to be flawed, notably in its handling of the refugee crisis. Their double-edged sword of appearing to act with compassion as a cover for their desperate need for some one million skilled people to replace the erosion of its own workforce since 2012 through emigration to the likes of the UK, Switzerland, the USA, and Australia, has backfired. The Lisa Affair appears to be a ploy to further add to the woes of Angela Merkel as she loses popularity as the usually compliant German population now regularly take to the streets in defiance.

So, assuming Putin is playing games, should we be concerned? Politicians play games most of the time. Look at the upcoming intervention of the USA in the BREXIT debate. Is the USA really concerned about the UK, or their own influence in the EU for which they use the UK as their gateway? Would the USA ever consider surrendering any form of sovereignty to another nation to engage with it? I fully understand both the short-term geo-political and geo-economic consequences of a BREXIT – and it is not good. But everyone appears to be asking the UK to sacrifice itself for the sake of global stability. Why don’t these interlopers focus their concerns towards the mandarins in Brussels, and who could still save the day if vital EU reform is agreed? How many more times in history do the British people have to sacrifice themselves to save the World? If Putin wants to play games with Germany to accelerate realisation then so be it. If he is successful, the unintended consequences (on his part) might be the tonic that Europe so desperately needs.

BREXIT – Could The Right Thing To Do mean Uncertainty?

univestBREXIT – Could The Right Thing To Do mean Uncertainty?

I had hoped to move on from Brexit for a couple of weeks but my ears are ringing with the flagrantly misleading messages from the ‘Remain’ faction of the Government, especially self-serving junior ministers protecting their personal future career by towing the party line.

Over the recent past we have continually heard the pathos statement on every political issue ‘The Right Thing To Do’, and it is still in use today. In the Brexit campaign the repeated messages from the ‘Remain’ politicians are ‘Could’ and ‘Uncertainty’. Philosophers over the centuries have argued that in mankind there is no such thing as ‘Right’ or ‘Wrong’; only ‘Acceptable’ and ‘Unacceptable’. And the interpretation of both are subject to regular change. Even such hard statements such as ‘It is wrong to kill your fellow man’ has numerous exceptions – what are armies for? In certain branches of mathematics 2 + 2 = 4 would be the wrong answer.

The word ‘Could’ has to be the weakest example of the words available such as ‘Likely’, ‘Will’ or even ‘Inevitable’. And in life the only certainties are that night will follow day, and of course, taxes.

So why are these words so prolific in the Brexit debate? As none of them has any defined substance, and thus can be used without any political accountability, one can only assume they are expressions intended to induce fear, and even terrorism amongst the population, without recourse. Is this referendum considered so irrelevant by the ‘Remain’ faction of the Government that they can trivialise the issues in this way? Sounds like their message to the population is ‘We know better than you what is good for you and your offspring, but you will not understand the arguments, so just do as we say’. I can only hope that the population get this message loud and clear, the hackles flair, and the backbone that won the Battle of Britain prevails. After all Cameron’s so-called deal could be compared with the Chamberlain letter of pacification from Hitler – before Winston Churchill came to the rescue.

As we are discussing political rhetoric, perhaps a revisit to the wisdom of Aristotle may help.

LOGOS: We are faced with the option to leave the political body known as the EU. We must weigh the arguments for and against, and make our decision by means of a referendum of the people to be held on 23rd June. We, your Government, acknowledge and accept that the EU is in need of significant reform as we do not agree with its current course. We have debated with the autocrats in Brussels seeking commitment to these necessary reforms to protect the British people and their way of life – but we have failed in all respects to date, even though the autocrats in Brussels are aware that this could result in the UK leaving the EU.

ETHOS: We, the Government, are fully aware of our failings to date, but we still believe that we should continue to argue our case from within the EU in the hope that we may, some day, convince the autocrats that we do not wish to become part of an undemocratic United States of Europe. In the mean time we have achieved some exemptions from further integration, albeit open to challenge.

PATHOS: We, your Government, reluctantly accept that our resolve during the Bloomberg discussion leading to this referendum has failed to materialise, in spite of best efforts on our part. We further accept that our stance is a real gamble that we can effect major reform before the EU slowly, but surely, erode our exemptions. But we, your Government, truly believe (well at least half of us) that the right thing to do, in the interests of the UK people, is to remain, as an exit could mean an uncertain future.

Which way would you vote?

 

BREXIT will not isolate the UK in Europe

univestBREXIT will not isolate the UK in Europe

I have received a number of comments suggesting that BREXIT will isolate the UK in Europe. As I have absolutely no interest in isolating the UK from Europe I would like to address these comments.

If you look back to the various blogs about the EU I generated in 2013 it should be clear that I consider that the UK should be at the very heart of Europe. If we look back at the two configurations suggested by Winston Churchill we essentially see one option where the UK would act as broker between the then OEEC (Organisation for European Economic Co-operation) and, primarily, the USA – a role we still perform in part today. The other option was to create a United States of Europe where the UK was the dominant player at the very heart of Europe. Never, in his wildest dreams, would he consider a role as a marginalised player in the autocratic EU of today.

So where is the confusion? Fundamentally BREXIT is about leaving the political system that is the EU – not Europe. Furthermore, BREXIT would lead the way for others member states, who cannot wield the power of the UK, but of similar mind, to follow. Other EU members who do not favour or qualify to join the German-Franco dominated Eurozone, could also combine with the UK to seek a new arrangement. This is where the UK, after the experience of BREXIT, would be ideally placed to take the lead role. A new grouping, under UK leadership, would be based on free trade with the Eurozone core (not the nonsense contributory scaremonger version), and on mutual interests elsewhere in the world – not least the Commonwealth countries. The new form of cooperation would be between independent sovereign European Nations and absolutely free of compulsion towards economic convergence or political integration.

Thereafter survival of the remaining EU ultimately depends on the fiscal union of those who use it. Fiscal union, defacto, demands political union. So the EU can only survive for as long as the remaining rich countries are prepared to transfer a proportion of their wealth to the poorer ones, and those poorer ones are prepared to endure the stark conditions of austerity the rich countries impose on them for receiving it. But the imposition of political union on the 19 nations that use it, (let alone the other 9 who do not, and may join the UK) no longer looks like a realistic option. As with the failure of the Schengen agreement on open borders, common sense suggests that we must have a fully integrated United States of Europe model for the Eurozone to survive. The reality is that there is little appetite to integrate 28 nations with disparate economies, different backgrounds, culture and languages under an undemocratic autocracy. Therefore, we need to find another way.

What I have always insisted is that the UK must have an alternate plan for Europe post-BREXIT that provides for the unity of the countries of Europe, but without the political integration. It would even be possible to keep the Eurozone for those member States that feel it beneficial (remembering that fiscal union means political union), albeit with a democratic oversight.

I am still firmly of the opinion that BREXIT will be the beginning of the end of the EU in its current form. The EU blind determination to continue its drive for ever closer union is in fact driving it rapidly towards the rocks of disintegration. If the EU were to recognise the impending disaster in time to materially change course before the June referendum, then it might be in the UK’s interests to stay in and participate in the process of reconstruction. But this is the only positive argument that can be made for staying in. As we saw with the Cameron negotiations the EU hierarchy seem so obstinately oblivious of the impending danger, that the case for us to leave is compelling. Remaining in without major reform would consign Britain to being a second-tier state in a United States of Europe controlled by the German-Franco-led Eurozone – which is totally unacceptable.

I was lucky enough over the past weekend to gain access to a paper ‘The Referendum – a step towards a Democratic, Prosperous and Safe Europe’ jointly written by Walter Reid, formerly Professor of Accounting and Financial Control at the London Business School, and Chairman MDA Training Ltd, and D.R. Myddelton, Emeritus Professor of Finance and Accounting at Cranfield School of Management. Rather than me summarise a lengthy paper I will provide an extract that speaks volumes of a proper English approach to the referendum:

Quote:

The paper proposes the establishment of a European Multi Currency Union [EMCU] to operate alongside the Eurozone.  Unless the Eurozone and the Brussels Commission come to realise that some such change is essential to hold the EU together – which seems unlikely – it will be necessary for it to be set up by a new Treaty outside the EU by member-states wishing to be free of the current Mission.  A parallel structure between the EU and the EMCU will enable Europe to present a common position in areas such as defence and internal security and any other areas where it is in the mutual interests of both parties to work together.

Britain has an important role to play in helping to set up this new democratic Europe.  It could provide a way for both Britain and our fellow-member-states who also want to escape the oppressive actions of the Eurozone to protect their national interests and build together a democratic and prosperous Europe.

To help achieve this crucial aim, David Cameron should adopt an approach that would mitigate further acrimonious and divisive argument between the Remain and the Leave groups – which could split his party and indeed the country. This would involve agreeing that his recent negotiations achieved much less than the ‘fundamental and far reaching change’ he sought in his Bloomburg speech and that the concessions gained are being challenged.  Further, they are causing serious divisions across Europe as other countries seek similar exemptions.

End Quote

The last paragraph indicates a needed change in position by David Cameron which would also stop all of the adverse speculation in the markets, which in itself is unnecessarily damaging the UK. I would hope that this paper becomes readily available in the public domain.

Once upon a time ……. In Europe

univestOnce upon a time ……. In Europe

Once upon a time there was a fairy kingdom that lived inside a place called Brussels and was surrounded on all four sides by a land called Europe containing the Outer Realms. Brussels is aligned with another kingdom called Strasbourg. Both are inhabited by disembodied heads that speak from the walls of bars, and with yet another closed kingdom called Berlin, the abode of Brunnhilde and her Only Party. These Kingdoms are in eternal political syzygy and speak not with the people of the surrounding lands, of whom they know nothing. The following is a chronicle of what could befell them, and why.

After years of peace, the Kingdoms were taken greatly aback by the rise of the BREXIT Monster, their surprise being proof that they know nothing of the Outer Realms. They know nothing for good reasons, of which there are two. The first is that they pass their lives with each other and among each other and talking to each other and writing about each other and reading about each other behind the high walls of their Kingdoms. In organs of their own Insider community they endlessly write stories of the form ‘A soothsayer in Brussels replies to what some other sayer of sooth in Strasbourg said about yet another’s attack on someone else’.

They all dwell in monasteries called the EU Commission and the EU Council, where they are indoctrinated that they are the wisest of men, and inerrant. They have no idea that they are so hated in the strange lands without their walls, which on their maps are drawn as fog with notations such as ‘Here dwelleth dragons’. They do not know that there are people who agreed not with them. Were they not right about all things?

The other reason for their puzzlement is a powerful spell called ’Political Correctness’. This strong magic prevents the outlanders from saying anything that the Three Kingdoms do not want to hear. Anyone who engages incantations are branded slurs, which are truthful thoughts about sacred tribes, or who say inappropriate things about a certain little country whose only importance is being that it produces vast wealth for the Kingdoms, is now thrown into durance vile. Thus, the Three Kingdoms never hear anything they don’t like, and so believe that almost everyone without the walls loves them. They have scarce an idea what furies are roiling and boiling and stirring under the surface of the Outer Realms.

Now, until the BREXIT Monster appeared, the Three Kingdoms were ruled by a pseudo-democracy of one Bicephalous Party with two names. The Only Party consists of blackguards and quislings and pickpockets bought and paid for by the plutocratic oligarchy of large corporations, and the very rich. These tell the two halves of the One Party what to do. Every four years there is played a great tournament in which candidates of the Two Names of the One Party engaged in the most savage combat imaginable.  This is to distract the people outside the walls in the Outer Realms. Afterwards, nothing changes and all goes on as before though the division of the spoils may shift a little.

And in their ignorance and pride, the Three Kingdoms now engender a monster called BREXIT, and it has bitten them.

The Only Party always controls the villains because it controls the choice of pretenders to the throne. A pretender gains the Presidency by paying homage to the Only Party, and the rich who provide that money controls, as vassals, those who accept it. The pretenders are as straw and melons sold in a market.

Furthermore, the scribes and oracles of the Kingdoms say aloud only those things that are meet for the surrounding serfs to hear.  The persistent spell of Political Correctness amounts to a societal mute button and prevents the Holy Orders within the Three Kingdoms from noticing what stirs without.

Until the BREXIT Monster came raging, slouching toward Bethlehem, with which the Kingdoms confuse themselves.

And there is fright, and desperation, and rending of teeth, and gnashing of hair, for many are the rice bowls threatened.

The darkest of horrors is that the serfs might come to choose the manner of their government. For long years, the Bicephalous Party had presided over that most desirable form of democracy in which the people have no power. This laudable state they have maintained by never talking about anything of substance, such as unending wars in remote lands beyond the edges of the maps, or the importation of slaves from curious and unwholesome countries, or the manufacturers of all things by foreign dwarves, or the satiate life of the Insiders within the kingdoms.

A great broil now ensues. The people of the little country see for the first time a chance to manage their destinies and rise up for the BREXIT Monster.  Inside Brussels, the Wise and Good – for do they not so denominate themselves? – are greatly astonished. ‘What manner of wight can this be?’ they ask in wonder. They say that the BREXIT Monster is beguiling fools, the cracked, and those who represented the worst in Europe. And the scribes and oracles are sore afraid, for most of the outlying populace appear to belong to these tribes.

One of the Two Names of the Only Party have sent forth their dreadful creature, Brunnhilde, to fight in single combat with the BREXIT Monster. Her very visage turns men to stone, it is said. She is held to be of one blood with Boadica, Jeanne d’Arc, and Lucretia Borgia.

The Three Kingdoms are at one with her, as she has corrupted them to her ways, being mendacious, and ugly, as well as suffering coughing fits and dizzy spells. Surely, say the scribes and oracles, any monster must fly screaming from her mere presence.

Yet it seems that BREXIT is no common monster. Every time it is beset by the scribes and oracles of Brussels, it grows stronger, and a sulfurous smoke breathes from its mouth. With drawn swords the BREXIT Monster and the crumbling ruin yclept Brunnhilde circle each other.

And beyond the parapets and crenellations of the three Kingdoms the sky grows darker. Inside Brussels and in Strasbourg, the disembodied heads rail and rage, but with every blast, the helots joint the BREXIT Monster in larger numbers, for they hate the Insiders. In Berlin, the half-educated narcissists say ever more stupid things, but these have not their usual effect.

In their pride, the Three Kingdoms had engendered Nemesis, and they watch in terror behind the ramparts as the sky grows darker and strange shapes twist in the looming clouds as the BREXIT Monster strides ever nearer, breathing fire.

 

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.

 

 

BREXIT – What Deal?

univestBREXIT – What Deal?

When David Cameron elected to engage in a referendum regarding UK membership of the EU his pronouncement was that he would seek much needed fundamental reform to the EU, or support an ‘out’ vote. These reforms included substantial issues such as curtailing the role of the European Court of Human Rights in UK determinations, to scrap the Human Rights Act, reclaiming sovereignty for both our parliament and our judicial system, and to have sanction over immigration into the UK.

What he achieved is zero reform; only some tweaking at the fringes which, until written into Treaty are no more than what the Courts call mitigating circumstances in determinations, the existing Treaty being the fundamental basis on which they will make determinations. Few, if any of the EU leaders who agreed this tweaking will be in office when the next Treaty is discussed, and the European Parliament can most certainly vote down any, if not all of the concessions. Thus why the ‘deal’ is already in the dim past of the EU referendum debate.

As a trained negotiator I have an unease about the lack of any substance to the ‘deal’ as Germany most certainly needs to keep us within. Did Cameron not have the heart for such a negotiation? Is there a deal behind the scenes regarding the future of Cameron? Was he the wrong man to negotiate? History may tell us the answer, but until then we must accept that the ‘deal’ does not remotely meet with the initial basis of the referendum.

I am not going to debase my discussion by using speculative monetary values, or the use and abuse of statistics. As it is clear to see in the media the business and financial community are divided on opinion based on their specific vested interests – thus irrelevant. As argued in previous blogs this debate is about the future of the people in the UK. All of the economic and political arguments pale against the right outcome for the British way of life. Business and finance will continue regardless of the choice made in June. As one dear lady so elegantly put it in a Jeremy Vine interview last week, ‘so-called experts built the Titanic, but not the Ark’.

I do not believe the people of the UK will engage with the current political and business debate. So let us bring the argument down to a reasonable comparator argument that anyone can understand. Our base will be a recently new golf club where the charter debenture holders (the people who essentially financed the building of the club) sought preferential treatment as part of their contribution. This creates a two-tiered system of membership even though much of their initial investment has been redeemed through subsequent debenture sales. What will happen over time is policy committee members will change, and privileges of the charter members will become fuzzy, and erode, until they have no more privileges than any other member, i.e. harmonising rights to all members. This is what will most certainly happen in the EU. Fuzzy memberships such as Norway, the UK, and Switzerland will be tolerated in the short-term, but over time the boundaries will be eroded until they are eradicated. In Political Risk parlance this is called creeping expropriation. If the UK elects to remain an EU member it will most certainly not retain any special status over time.

The generally accepted current situation of the EU is fragile, and in need of serious reform. So what is the future if the UK votes to remain within – uncertainty. What is the future if the UK votes to leave the EU – uncertainty. So what is the difference – control of the uncertainty. The UK is not a Switzerland or a Norway. The UK is the 5th largest economy in the world – and carries much power and influence in the world in its own right (as endorsed by the German Foreign Minister on Radio 4).

Let us look at uncertainty, again in an easily understandable form. Uncertainty is as much part of life as day and night. The obvious relevant examples are life-changing decisions to get married, have children, or God forbid – divorce. They all require uncertain adaptability, but are all undertaken with the hope to a better future. For a while they can be a struggle, but the outcome is generally worth it. Ask any woman who has gone through labour, but yielded a healthy baby – the pain of labour is soon forgotten. A BREXIT includes a 2 year ‘grandfather clause’ where all of our existing relationships with the EU continue giving time to agree alternatives such as free trade agreements. The UK will see some immediate benefits in that the irksome elements of the Human Rights Act can be ignored, immigration can be brought under control, and our transport infrastructure can quickly progress without the interminable interference of Brussels. Therefore, our uncertainty has a short-term safety net which negates the scaremonger argument that the short-term will be turbulent; but does have some valuable upsides. The UK successfully recovered from 2 World wars without help, so a relatively simple exit from the EU should be a breeze. I would suggest that most people will not feel any immediate difference.

There is one element of the uncertainty that I have yet to see any comment. What is likely to happen to the EU without the UK as a member. There are a number of relevant uncertainties. Other net contributor countries could see the UK exit as a sign that the current EU model is really broke, and thus elect to do the same – especially as the EU will have to increase contributions of other member States to fill the vacuum left by the considerable contribution by the UK. The right-wing elements of France could rise and depose the French Government. France has much to lose by a UK exit. Where were these concerns in the deal negotiations – or wasn’t the threat of the UK leaving a serious consideration?

If Germany can find the means to support the Eurozone then it will more rapidly consolidate its hold over the Euro countries – and the people of the UK will be thankful that they departed. Of course we still have the Greek issue which will most certainly be a thorn in the side of Germany – will this lead to conflict within the Eurozone? We have seen that the poor response by Germany to the economic situation in the Eurozone when they refused quantitative easing some 4 years ago. The too little – too late plan by the ECB yesterday was greeted with derision by the markets.

The UK has a proud history as the banking centre of the world boasting excellence in financial capability (even when Labour are in Government), and the ability of the UK to rise from both the irresponsible spending of the last Labour Government and the financial crisis lays testimony to the intelligent and speedy response to such events. Should this be sacrificed to the incapable Eurozone mandarins who clearly do not have the experience, or the global market understanding?

In summary BREXIT will yield uncertainty whichever way it goes. Therefore, the issue is whether or not the people of the UK want control over such uncertainty, or do they want to surrender decisions to Brussels – unaccountable to the people of the UK, and not so interested in preserving the British way of life.

 

 

The Foundation Stones of the BREXIT issue

img1The Foundation Stones of the BREXIT issue

Before embarking in any detail blogs regarding the political and economic merits relating to BREXIT I would like to consider the environment leading to this referendum.

I think what is happening in the USA at this time allows us to sit back and observe what happens when the people feel that politics is stagnant, and thus irrelevant. If we use a simile of the US Congress and the House of Representatives as two conflicting factions of Europe, and President Obama as the people wanting to move forward in their lives but stifled by the conflict, then we can understand why Donald Trump is doing so well. My view is that the European Commission has lost sight of the problems in Europe being more interested in the degree of curvature of a banana than the real problems of economic inequality, global instability, and now the refugee crisis. Indeed, the refugee crisis demonstrates the difference between out-of-touch grandstanding vision, and reality.

In the late 1970’s, my mentor, Walter Wriston, and probably the most influential banker in the world at the time responded to my question regarding the political influences on deregulation of financial services and global capital flows (Big Bang in 1986) by stating that politicians come and go. Business drives economic prosperity, and the banks are the enduring stable force to ensure the required liquidity to facilitate global trade. I have never forgotten his response, essentially because it has shown over the years to be the case. I was also taught by him that there are two factors in global business decision making; inevitability, and consequence. To him (in 1979) deregulation of financial services was inevitable, with timing being the only consequence of interference from politicians.

I had the opportunity to attend a presentation to senior bankers by Jacques Delors when President of the European Commission. He was expounding ever closer European union in his attempt to convince senior bankers of the merits of forcing European federalism upon the UK. I suggested to him that businessmen, rather than politicians, would drive any unity in Europe, if deemed beneficial, while the politicians were still talking about it. Even his (French) economic adviser could not dispute the reality of my comment. It was interesting last week to see how few of the CEO’s of major corporates in the UK were prepared to openly endorse the views of David Cameron regarding BREXIT.

My opinion from many years of experience throughout the world is that the EU model is broke. The Cameron negotiations demonstrated that there is no appetite from vested interest parties to fix it other than tinker at the edges. In recent years the faults in the USA federal model have clearly demonstrated how damaging such models can be to the people when vested political interests can completely stifle the function of Government, and thus damage the lives of the people it is there to protect. Therefore, the only other route is to let the EU empire fall, and then remodel into something more worthy of consideration by the people. Does the UK want to be part of this (inevitable?) decline when it has other options? I think that a risk analysis would err on the side of caution, i.e. stand outside as a spectator and watch. And let us not forget that the Greek crisis revealed another truth – that the big decisions were made in Berlin – not Brussels.

Business will always find a way to trade, and thus survive. Thus BREXIT is only about the people of the UK, and their influence over decisions regarding their own future.