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.

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?

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.

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.

 

 

To Be, or Not to Be (in the EU)? That is the question

img1To Be, or Not to Be (in the EU)? That is the question

At last we have a definitive timeline to determine our future. Do we want to be ruled by a Germanic invasion of Europe for the third attempt in a hundred years, or do we rely on our historic past and save Europe from a model that was broke the day the Euro was introduced?

Having not yet analysed in full the proposed deal agreed by David Cameron last week, I can only comment on what he says he has achieved, having twice listened to his claims. The first alarm bell was the excessive use of Aristotle pathos during the Andrew Marr interview Sunday morning. Invariably a sign of a weak argument.

Let us quickly deal with benefits as this is only window dressing at just £30m or thereabouts per year. The UK net membership contribution is some five times this amount per week – some £2 per head of every man, woman and child in the UK. And what about the money sent to support families in places such as Africa, India and Pakistan every year. Add to this people from places such as Switzerland who come here to retire to take advantage of our NHS, our subsidised travel costs for pensioners, and our substantially lower cost of living – what have they contributed to our country? I would argue that child credits should be paid to every worker at the same level assuming they are paying UK taxes. The fact that their children are in another country should be seen as a saving as they receive their education and healthcare outside of our system. If these children lived in the UK then they would not only receive child credit but also incur costs for education and healthcare. This would amount to considerably more Government support than £21 per week. People who come here only to sponge on our benefits system, or even our NHS, should most certainly be refused entry.

His scaremongering essentially revolves around trade and defence. I found it bizarre that he puts our membership of the EU on the same context as our membership to the UN, NATO, G7, etc. This is comparing apples and bananas. We sit at the top table at the UN, NATO, G7, etc whereas we are a secondary player in the EU, tolerated primarily because of our historic influence in the world, and our substantial contribution in membership fees (without which the EU is likely to collapse). Last week the German Foreign Minister, speaking on Radio 4, clearly stated that the UK leaving will substantially reduce the influence of the EU in the world. He recognised that the UK is a primary driver in global influence of the EU, and we would most certainly retain our influence. We are the fifth largest economy in the world, and we benefit from an historic trans-global approach to the world. I find the EU extremely introspective. Ask someone in China where is Brussels, and then where is London – the easiest example to support my argument.

As for trade, we constantly hear from politicians wishing to stay within the EU that the EU is our largest trading partner, and indeed some claim that the EU is the largest trading bloc in the world. Rubbish and rubbish. We import some £300 billion per annum in goods and services from the EU – about two months worth of our overall trade. We sell considerably less to the EU. Our largest investment market is the USA, and we would be far better served in exports by nurturing our Commonwealth nations who constitute some 1.85 billion people as against some 340 million people in the EU. Politicians in the EU would impose trade barriers against the UK at their peril – of their own corporate leaders. Ask the USA, whose corporates are still trying to recover from the ill-considered trade barriers set by the USA in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Our finance sector is another scaremonger tactic. I found the statement, purportedly from HSBC, that should the UK leave the EU then they will have to establish investment banking activities in Paris as ludicrous as moving their headquarters back to Hong Kong. They might decide, as is normal practice in banking, to establish themselves within a market – but Paris? I also do not expect Deutschebank to reduce its presence in the City of London any time soon as the EU will need the capital raising capability of the City.

What Cameron did not achieve is any real movement in our sovereignty, as it is referred to, and the primary reason declared for Boris Johnson electing for the out of Europe campaign. Our legal system is considered as one of the best in the world, especially for trade and finance – and thus the dominance of the City of London. Its strength is that it grew with the market, and continues to rapidly evolve as is required to meet new challenges – and it is trusted. The continuing imposition of EU law can only impede our ability to retain this dominant position, and thus the dominance of the City – as has been attempted twice during my life as a banker. Germany has never been trans-global in its finance policy, and is invariably behind the curve on matters economic. For example, they dithered for some 3 years about quantitative easing meaning everyone within the Euro suffered.

The only applause to Cameron is for forcing the EU to agree a new deal in time for the referendum to occur whilst Angela Merkel is still in her final weeks of office. Politically well played – that is until Merkel’s response to the refugee crisis went sour. Had Merkel not lost her support within Germany she would have done whatever necessary to avoid the EU collapsing on her watch. There are now whispers that two other net contributor countries are considering following our lead out of the EU. Will the unelected grey suits in Brussels get the message? Today my vote is for Rule Britannia.

More to follow as the detail evolves.

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.

FUTURE ENERGY GENERATION – Why are our major oil & gas companies, apparently under threat by the environmental lobby, not diversifying into energy generation as part of their future strategy?

univest

FUTURE ENERGY GENERATION – Why are our major oil & gas companies, apparently under threat by the environmental lobby, not diversifying into energy generation as part of their future strategy?

Having watched with interest over the past weeks discussions relating to the strategic development of future energy generation I noted one discussion that questioned if the major oil & gas companies today would be the energy companies of tomorrow. This question did not arouse much discussion, but then I thought that if we beg the question of why these companies have not already diversified into the energy generators of today we might have a more interesting debate. After all they have both the Balance Sheets and the income generation to engage in energy generation, and they have the environmental lobby trying to drive them out of the business of fossil fuel production. So why have they not, at least, diversified their activities, but continue to pursue ever more costly development of fossil fuel production?

Looking at the business model of the major oil & gas companies such as BP, Exxon, Shell, etc. they all engage in exploration, development, production, refining, wholesale and retail distribution of fossil-based products. Thus their business model fully accommodates the substitution of power generation (even nuclear as a means to offset the fossil fuel debate) for refining which then provides for both wholesale and retail distribution of electricity. The companies have both the Balance Sheets and income profile (cash flow) to support the development of new primary generation capacity using the new generation of nuclear reactors, namely thorium reactors, as a logical diversification away from fossil fuels.

Before anyone raises the fact that these companies, in various degrees, have invested into renewable energy projects I would suggest that an intelligent review of their capital commitment to such projects is less than their annual promotional costs, and would further suggest that these projects are undertaken as part of their promotional costs, taking full advantage of all available government grants and subsidies, in order to create the illusion that they care about the impacts they may, or may not, be contributing to climate change. Of course we must remember that such impacts are not as yet reasonably proven, and are essentially propaganda by bodies fronted by the UN IPCC committee.

So why do these companies not take the environmental lobby seriously? Why do they continue with the ever increasing cost of developing ever more expensive fossil fuel recovery, yet do not spread their risk into other sources of energy?

Could it be that the latest IPCC climate change report provides a significant clue as to why these companies do not see the need to contemplate energy generation as part of their business strategy. Indeed could the advent of successful fracking for both oil and gas provide an even stronger foundation to the forward strategies of these companies in that the net production costs of recovering fossil fuels is getting cheaper? And the quantum of fossil fuel recoverable reserves has never been in doubt other than by the doomsayer environmentalist activists.

Why do these major oil & gas companies not see the need to diversify into energy generation even though such activity fits within their existing business model? I would suggest that they understand the business of energy, and their fundamental involvement in secure supply of fuel for the foreseeable future – much to the chagrin of the environmental lobby. These companies know that they will maintain their position as the primary source of fuels for generations to come, regardless. They are the only consistent source of fuels for primary energy generation, especially now that the nuclear program has been stalled by the unrealistic (but understandable) reaction to events such as the Fukushima incident. They are likely to have to find ways of reducing the hostile emissions of fossil fuels but, as with the creation of solutions such as the syntroleum process to remove the sulphur content from natural gas thus providing clean feedstock diesel fuel, they will find cost-effective solutions to other emission issues.

I share their confidence – that is until either/or thorium reactors and fusion reactors provide a significant commercial alternative. Other initiatives such as hydrogen fuel cells are unlikely to be cost effective enough to replace internal combustion engines. Indeed there are cheaper and much cleaner fuel alternatives that can be used in the existing internal combustion engine – if the powerful oil & gas interests will let such fuel alternatives see the light of day, even though they are the logical producer and distributor of these alternate fuels.

The major oil & gas companies are formidable political lobbyists. They will ensure that the revelations of uncertainty in the latest IPCC climate change report will set back the climate change/fossil fuel debate by decades, and I expect to see political support of the environmental lobby begin to cool. Indeed politicians in need of votes are likely to slowly but surely defuse the debate by asserting the current lack of reasonable evidence. Germany has irrationally indicated its lack of support for nuclear, not by reference to renewable alternatives, but to a return to coal of which they have significant reserves. Thus I propose that fossil fuels are the preferred reliable source of primary energy generation for the foreseeable future, and as such the major oil & gas majors are in no hurry to diversify.