Thursday, 17 October 2019

All behind you Boris

If the deal that Boris Johnson has negotiated with the EU passes, the whole of the UK will leave both the EU Single Market and the EU’s Customs Union. Let’s be clear. This is Brexit. It isn’t Brexit in Name Only. All of the UK, Northern Ireland too will be leaving the EU.

The Irish Backstop has been removed. Northern Ireland will no longer have to stay in the Customs Union after the UK left. The international border between Northern Ireland and Ireland will remain open.  There won’t be an international border between Northern Ireland and the other parts of the UK. Northern Ireland will be just as much a part of the UK’s internal market as it is at present.

 There will be some alignment between Northern Ireland and Ireland in order to maintain the all-Ireland economy which at present exists in certain areas such as electricity. There will be some monitoring of goods transported across the Irish sea between Britain and Northern Ireland. These checks for the most part will be carried out by British officials. No one travelling between Britain and Northern Ireland will be checked or hindered in any way. In fact, it’s entirely unclear if anyone is even going to notice whatever checks take place. There will be an arrangement whereby goods which might end up being exported from the Britain to Ireland via Northern Ireland will be charged EU duty. If they don’t in fact go south, but remain in Northern Ireland this duty will be repaid.

The Northern Irish Assembly if it ever gets up and running again will have a say on these arrangements. Neither side of the community will have a veto. This appears to be what the DUP is objecting to. But if a simple majority wishes to change matters, they can be changed.

This isn’t a bad deal. We all agreed that “No deal was better than a bad deal.” But this isn’t that. It may not give Brexiteers everything that we want. But this is enormously better than Theresa May’s deal. The UK will be able to make trade deals with other countries. Those deals will apply to the whole of the UK. We will no longer have to apply the EU’s common external tariff. The UK’s Parliament and Government will not be subordinate to the EU and it’s laws.

I would greatly prefer that the DUP were onboard, but Northern Ireland’s position as an integral part of the UK may end up being safer than if we went down the no deal route. A hard border in Ireland might persuade enough nationalists on both sides of the border that the only solution is a united Ireland. The present deal doesn’t change Northern Ireland’s constitutional status as part of the UK, it just does what is necessary to keep the border in Ireland open. My view is that a border poll in Ireland would be unlikely to take place peacefully. If either side lost closely it might prefer to go back to bombs rather than ballots. Better by far that both communities in Northern Ireland get some of what they want and that those who want to be Irish can be Irish and those who want to be British can be British. This deal just might keep the peace.

With the whole of the UK completely outside the EU, the SNP are going to be faced with a horrible dilemma. They are not going to be able to argue that Scotland should be given the Northern Irish option because Northern Ireland will be completely outside both the Customs Union and the Single Market.

Scottish Independence would mean that whatever trade deals the UK negotiates in the coming years would not apply to Scotland. It would mean Scotland having to apply to join the EU from scratch or alternatively having to negotiate trade deals both with the UK and the EU at the same time. Joining the EU would require joining the Euro and Schengen which would inevitably lead to a hard border between England and Scotland. Moreover, the SNP would have to explain to the Scottish electorate that they wanted to make the Scottish Parliament less powerful by giving back to the EU those powers over fisheries, agriculture etc etc. that the UK will get back from the EU. The vast majority of these powers will be devolved to the various Parliaments and assemblies.

It has taken three years for the UK to get an acceptable deal from the EU. How long would it take Scotland to get an acceptable deal from both the UK and the EU. Do Scots really want to go through these kinds of negotiations again?

Scotland being in the EU while the UK is out is a nightmare scenario for Scotland, but Scotland being outside both the UK and the EU is if anything even worse. This is why the SNP oppose Brexit and why they will vote against any deal or no deal. Scottish independence depends on the whole of the UK remaining in the EU.

I regret that Northern Ireland is being treated in any way differently to the other parts of the UK. Belfast is as British as Burnley and Bognor Regis. But If Northern Ireland was sold down the river it was not today rather it was when we signed the Belfast Agreement in 1998.  But if we hadn’t signed it would Northern Ireland be as peaceful today as it is? Probably not. This was the price that we had to pay for peace.

The Belfast Agreement gave Dublin leverage and it has played its hand well. But Ireland set out to thwart Brexit and keep the UK in the EU, and there is little doubt that this was its aim, it may have failed. A united Ireland is no closer today than it was yesterday, last year or indeed in 1998. The UK subsidised Northern Ireland massively and the Northern Irish economy is closely integrated with the rest of the UK. Who would pay for Northern Ireland if Belfast and Dublin were united? Who would keep the peace if unification was less than peaceful? The Boris deal while treating Northern Ireland slightly differently from the other parts of the UK will bring Northern Ireland closer to the UK and further away from Ireland because the UK as a whole will over time diverge from the EU. If the DUP want Northern Irish to remain British forever their task is to persuade Northern Irish citizens who feel Irish that they also can feel equally British.

The Boris deal is not everything I might have wanted, but it is the best deal we are going to get. It is better than no deal. Brexiteers should get behind it. Farage should disband his party and we all Leavers should vote for Boris. Only a very short while ago the Remainers thought they had won. If we get out over the next few days and weeks it will be the Remoaners who will be moaning not least because they will know that the UK will never re-join the EU. Scottish nationalists too will reflect that this will be the moment that Scottish independence became impossible.

Saturday, 12 October 2019

The slaves of the fathers

Various universities in Britain are investigating their links to the slave trade. They are asking whether they directly or indirectly benefited from slavery. Glasgow has already confessed its guilt and proposes to do penance. Cambridge, no doubt will, soon do the same. After that we can expect every university that existed during the Atlantic slave trade to find that it is guilty and needs to pay millions to people who are descended from slaves.

It’s all very Old Testament. The Glaswegian Lord ‘by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.’ Do academics from Glasgow really think that they are guilty for things that their parents did? Perhaps they think that their sin is so original that it goes back to eating an apple.

But let’s apply this theory of guilt to more recent history. Imagine that someone donated a large sum of money to the University of Glasgow in the 1930s because he had made a great deal of money from trading with the Soviet Union. Did the University of Glasgow directly or indirectly benefit from Communism? Must it share the shame of the Gulag and pay reparations to the children who were oppressed by Stalin? The same argument could obviously be made for someone who made money from trading with Germany in the 1930s or China while ruled by Mao. Where will the guilt end, especially if it is to visited on the children so liberally.

Why focus merely on the Atlantic slave trade. It isn’t after all that slavery was invented when we discovered the West Indies or that it was located only in the southern states of the USA. There were slaves in the Bible. The Romans and Greeks owned slaves. Did any of us benefit from the fact that the English language is full of words derived from Latin and Greek? Did any of us benefit from Greek and Roman literature and culture and the contribution they made to the development of human civilization? Then we too are guilty and ought to pay reparations to the descendants of Greek and Roman slaves.

But who are these descendants and why should we stop with them? After all slavery was a feature of every European country until relatively recently.  Serfdom existed in Britain the Middle Ages and was abolished in Russia only in 1861. What this means is that if the University of Glasgow benefited from trade with people who owned serfs in Russia, the descendants of those serfs should equally be compensated. That’s rather a lot of descendants I’m afraid. It would be hard to find a Russian who did not have serf ancestors.

But it’s not just Russia. Did someone who owned serfs in the Middle Ages give money to the University of Cambridge? Well shouldn’t Cambridge pay the descendants of those serfs? Who are those children?

Here though we face one of the problems of visiting the iniquity of the fathers unto the children. The children multiply. I have, two parents, four grandparents, eight great grandparents etc. If you go back enough generations then all of us are the descendants of serfs and equally the descendants of masters. With sufficient generations the number of my ancestors is greater than the population of the whole world. Everyone in the Britain is the descendant of a slave, whether Roman, Greek, or serf. But so too everyone in the West Indies is a descendant of a master. That master may have come from Africa, Arabia or Scotland, but if you go back far enough each of us is both the child of a slave and a master, because each of us is the child of everyone that ever was.

It is morally decadent to apologise for something I didn’t do. We do not think that Germans are guilty for what their grandparents did. But white liberals have become so obsessed with race that they are quite desperate to pretend to be sorry for something that they didn’t do. Of course, they are not sorry at all. The University of Glasgow will benefit from the reparations it sends to the West Indies in the form of the Glasgow-Caribbean Centre for Development Research with departments both in Glasgow and the West Indies. It will benefit financially and it will benefit from the publicity generated by its confession of guilt and atonement.

But it is the obsession with race that is damaging all of us. Liberal guilt isn’t interested in historical examples of slavery in the UK, nor in the fact that slavery in Russia was abolished around the same time as slavery in the USA. It doesn’t care that millions of Russians and Chinese worked as slaves in the Gulags. All slaves are equal, but some slaves are more equal than others.

Once upon a time we had a dream where none of us would be judged by the colour of our skin. What mattered was how we lived our lives, the goodness of our actions. Each of us should be judged by the morality of our own actions, not by what our parents did. Someone is not a victim because of what happened to his ancestors. On that basis all of us are victims and all of us are guilty. Which of us does not have an ancestor who was wronged or who did wrong? No one deserve compensation for something that didn’t happen to him from someone who didn’t do him any harm at all. We should treat each other simply as human beings. The liberal obsession with race is itself racist. It thinks that the thing that matters most about a human being is his skin pigment. It views everything through that colour. In doing so it sets race against race by dividing us into the guilty and the innocent and in doing so loses all sight of our shared humanity.

Saturday, 5 October 2019

The children's crusade

There are two ideas that the children going on strike about climate change should be aware of. Science progresses or ought to progress by means of scientists testing their theories to destruction. This is the day to day stuff. Science progresses or ought to progress by means of scientific revolutions. This is the long-term stuff.

The problem with science is that scientists want to be proved right. Which scientist wants to see his theory falsified? For this reason, in the history of science certain false theories have been almost universally accepted. This is because scientists only seek to confirm their theories, they only look for evidence that fits in with what they believe and discount everything that might undermine their faith. Those who disagree with the consensus are frequently denounced as charlatans or heretics. But science progresses in the long run not by means of the herd mentality, but by means of the revolutionary genius.

Truth is not democratic. It didn’t matter that the whole scientific consensus thought Pasteur was deluded. It didn’t matter that everyone believed Newton was right about everything, everyone that is except Einstein. Peer reviewing is the scientific consensus whereby each scientist grooms the other by metaphorically picking nits from the chest of the other chimpanzee. You pick my nit and I’ll pick yours.

The overwhelming scientific consensus is frequently wrong because in order to be accepted into the scientific community you have to agree, you have to confirm what everyone else “knows” to be true and above all else you must not be sceptical about the group thought, you must not try to falsify it.

Fortunately, while science is governed by group think psychology, most scientists historically have been open to scientific revolution. If this had not been the case, we would still think that Malaria [mala aria] was caused by bad air. Ordinary group think scientists may spend their lives confirming rather than falsifying their theories, but they usually have recognised when the revolutionary scientist shows them that mosquitoes cause their fever. This is because most science is not political.

When science becomes politicalised nonsense frequently results. In the Soviet Union science as well as history often had to fit in with Marxism-Leninism. The result was that a whole generation followed the pseudo-science of Trofim Lysenko and rejected modern genetics and science-based agriculture.  The writings of generations of Soviet scientists and historians are worthless, because everything they wrote had to fit in with Soviet politics and was rejected if it did not. The pity is universities here are now following exactly this Soviet model.

Most university academics are left-wing. Certain subjects have been completely politicised, so that it is very difficult to get published if you disagree with the consensus. This doesn’t much matter if you are writing about literature or history. It makes these subjects dull and pointless when everyone conforms to the same left-wing model, but little harm is done. No one much reads this stuff anyway. But scientific theories do matter, when they have real world consequences. Before spending trillions of pounds trying to stop climate change, we should make sure that climate science isn’t biased by left-wing politics.

The Left was destroyed by the fall of the Berlin Wall. People voted with their feet when given the choice between socialism and the free market. No further argument was needed. But left-wing thinking didn’t go away it just redirected itself into Green politics and identity politics. The Left had decisively lost the argument but found a new way of winning.

Climate science used to be just another niche like particle physics or organic chemistry. It had nothing whatsoever to do with politics. I remember years ago being told that the world was soon going to have another ice age.  There were stories about skating on the Thames again. The world’s climate has always gone through cycles. Sometimes in history it has been much hotter than now, sometimes much colder. At some point however the climate science consensus went through a revolution. Cold became the new hot.   But this revolution was different. The possibility of a new ice age had been studied just like chemistry or physics. But the idea that the world was going to get hotter instead of being merely a hypothesis to be studied, became a political dogma to be believed.

Climate science should have no more to do with politics than geology, but Green political parties formed and used the apocalyptic theories associated with global warming to put forward the extreme left-wing solutions which people had rejected when the Wall came down. The soft-left (Al Gore et al) and the hard-left used global warming as a means to achieve a political agenda that otherwise would have been ignored.

The politicisation of climate science meant that only voices from the left were heard. Instead of the whole of humanity being involved in an issue that affects all of us, only left-wing solutions were presented to solve a left-wing problem. Anyone concerned about the future of our planet, must regret this.

Is global warming happening? Probably. It’s a theory. Let’s test it to destruction by trying to falsify it. If we do so, it just might be that we have another scientific revolution that overthrows the present consensus.

Let’s stop the scare stories. I have lost count of the number of times over the past decades where I have been warned if we don’t do something in the next year or so something dreadful will happen. The end of the world is nigh stuff led by children is something we did in medieval times. Soon they will go on a children’s crusade led by Greta d’Arc in shining armour on a quest for sainthood.

Can human beings change the climate? Probably not. It may well be that a caveman living during the Ice Age thought that if only he prayed to whatever God he believed in, then he could make the world warmer. But he had to wait centuries, just as we do.

There are fossils of tropical fish in Scotland, while we also were once covered by glaciers. Human beings couldn’t do much to stop climate change in the past. To suppose we can now is the equivalent of doing a rain dance or indeed sacrificing small children to make the sun rise.

When king Canute pretended to stop the tide coming in his point was to demonstrate the limit of human power. Well if the world today was heading towards an ice age, we wouldn’t be able to stop it by driving more cars. The reverse is also true. 

 Is it possible to limit the affects of climate change? Possibly. But it's not going to be done by recycling, or by not using paper cups for our coffee. What we need is a scientific revolution that provides us with cheap, clean, abundant energy.

There is no point lecturing people to stop using fossil fuels. What we need is a viable alternative. People the whole world over want economic development. This requires that they use more energy. We can no more stop this, than we can stop the tide. 

Green energy is not going to solve the problem. Wind power, wave power and solar power are not going to be able to replace the use of fossil fuels. They just don’t generate enough and the amount they do generate isn’t cost effective.  If the world today ceased to use fossil fuels and relied exclusively on Green energy, our economies would crash and none of us would be able to do the routine tasks that we do every day. We would in effect go back to Victorian times.

Every improvement in human life and every solution to every problem has come about because of the free market. Let us therefore objectively investigate our climate. Get rid of all of the bias and all of the dogma. Let everyone speak freely with no charges of heresy. Climate change “denial” might just bring about the next scientific revolution, just as Newtonian Physics "denial" gave us Einstein.

It is better anyway for us not to rely on fossil fuels. They are dirty. They are limited and we have to buy them from places that are frequently dangerous and despotic. But the only way to completely replace fossil fuels is by either splitting the atom or even better by fusing it.

If all of the scientific work that has been wasted on Green energy had instead been used to discover clean nuclear power (e.g. Thorium reactors) or even better fusion reactors, we could by now be abolishing the use of fossil fuels. But we are only going to be able to adapt to whatever changes our climate brings us if we continue to have the wealth that only free markets can give us. Therefore, we are only going to have a world without pollution and without burning hydrocarbons if we reject the Greens and their Marxist economics. If there is a solution to the problem of climate change, it will only be found by objective research and the economics of supply and demand.

We may not be able to change our climate, but with sufficient energy and sufficient wealth we can adapt both to extremes of cold and extremes of heat. Right now people can live in places that reach minus fifty or plus fifty centigrade. Humans have lived through ice ages and we have lived through periods when the world got warmer. We have done so by adapting, thinking freely and rejecting the dogma of children indoctrinated from infancy that their snowflakes are melting.

Sunday, 29 September 2019

What if a Yes vote had been blocked like Brexit?

Some independence supporting Scottish journalists and SNP politicians are attempting to portray the Scottish independence referendum as some sort of joyful, peaceful yearlong party. They contrast this with the referendum on the EU. But they are not comparing like with like. Worse there is a tendency to exaggerate on all sides.

Both Scotland and the UK in general remain peaceful. The biggest dangers facing all of us are not disagreements over politics, but rather crime, car accidents, illness and way down the list terrorism.

The likelihood of anyone of us being hurt, let alone killed by someone who disagrees with our politics over either Scottish independence or Brexit is trivial.

There have been numerous demonstrations especially by independence supporters in Scotland and Remain supporters in the UK generally, but while there might be some shouting and some passionate emotions there has been almost no violence.

Likewise, Pro UK Scots as well as Brexiteers have campaigned almost without exception peacefully. There have been strong words. Tempers have risen, but that is all.

The one exception to this was the murder of the MP Jo Cox by a mentally disturbed fascist. But the far-right remains politically tiny in the UK. There are no far-right MPS at Westminster and far-right candidates invariably lose their deposits. Decent people don’t blame ordinary Muslims for the deaths caused by terrorists acting in the name of Islam, nor do we try to use these deaths to gain a political advantage over those Muslims. The terrorists are responsible no one else.

The far-left by contrast is thriving in Britain. We have a Marxist leader of the opposition who has allowed anti-Semitism to flourish and grow in his party. For Labour MPs to continually attempt to gain political capital from an MP’s murder, while supporting a man who supported those who killed Ian Gow in 1990 and Airey Neave in 1979 is grossly hypocritical. To attempt to tar Brexiteers with the brush of murder is to use the same brush that racists use to blame ordinary British Muslims. No one’s death should be used to achieve political goals. Every person is an end in themselves. I find it distasteful to use the murder of a fellow human being for either party political ends or the achievement of any other political goal. It turns that death into a mere means and thereby demeans it, demeans death.

Let us not exaggerate. We still live in a democracy. It is highly likely that at some point soon there will be an election. We will all campaign and vote peacefully. There may be some shouting. Some people will say foolish things, but the likelihood of anyone being hurt remains very small indeed. Eight MPs have been murdered since 1812, all but two because they opposed Irish Republicanism. By contrast there were 147 workers killed in 2018/2019 with 30 in construction alone. By contrast being an MP is a very safe job.

I found the Brexit campaign difficult, because it meant I disagreed with people who I thought of as friends during the Scottish independence referendum. But the process of campaigning was nowhere near as unpleasant as during 2014.

I was the target of quite a few Cybernat Twitter mobs during and after the vote to stay in the UK. Some of these mobs were cheered on by those same Scottish journalists and SNP MPs who now pretend that indyref was joyful. Some of the foulest things imaginable were said about me. There were attempts to undermine my confidence, my identity and my right to live where I do.

I didn’t dare put a vote No poster in my window and I saw very few. There were Yes posters everywhere. I didn’t wear any visible sign of support for the UK. Not a flag, not a No. I didn’t talk about my intention to vote No to anyone I didn’t already know to be Pro UK. After we won the referendum, I didn’t talk to any stranger about the result, nor did any stranger mention it to me.

There was fear and there was intimidation in Scotland. There were Scottish nationalists marching en masse to cast their votes. Even now I avoid talking about Scottish politics in public. We live separate lives. I have no friends who vote SNP. I have never had a face to face conversation with someone who supports independence about that topic. Scotland is peaceful, but we are very, very divided and its not really getting any better.

The Indyref campaign was one of the worst experiences of my life. I genuinely believe it might have been joyful for the independence supporters. They may have been having a ceilidh all that time, but I couldn’t join. I could at best peer through the windows at the dancing while remaining out in the cold. We didn’t have a shared experience of the campaign. We barely live in a shared country anymore.

By contrast I didn’t care that much if Britain left the EU or not.  I care more now than I did, because we voted to leave  and we ought to leave. But if we’d voted to Remain, I would have shrugged my shoulders and been pleased that we’d avoided some turmoil to my investments.

Brexiteers have been remarkably restrained in the three long years since the referendum. We have rarely gone on demonstrations. We haven’t on the whole tried to use the courts. We have been impatient and sometimes we have been angry, but we haven’t fought back as the Remainer Rearguard has attempted to thwart the wishes of 17.4 million voters.

By contrast imagine if Yes had won the vote in Scotland by 52% to 48%. Imagine if one Tommy Atkins who had arrived in Scotland as teenager from England, tried to use the Scottish and UK courts to stop Scotland from leaving the UK. Imagine if Westminster had sided with Tommy and offered Scotland a deal that would have locked us into the UK forever and given us independence in name only. Imagine if Scotland had been offered this or “no deal” and then made it legally impossible for us to even leave with that no deal. How would Scottish independence supporters be behaving right now if 5 years after voting for independence Scotland was still part of the UK with no prospect of leaving any time soon?

Would SNP supporters be as patient as Brexiteers have been. Would they now be waiting peacefully for another election, knowing that no matter how many SNP MPs they elected they would never have a majority in Westminster.

SNP voters were angry enough when they lost the 2014 referendum. They were far more angry than Brexiteers have been when we won. So, let’s not compare like with unlike. Would Scotland really have avoided violence if independence had been voted for, but blocked? 

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Boris Agonistes

I never expected to win the 2016 EU referendum, in fact I was quite certain Brexit would lose. I thought the best chance was long term, that in time the contradictions involved in the EU would cause it to collapse just like the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed in 1918. The EU lacks a common language and the people living in it lack a common identity. They are of course Europeans, but so are we whether we are in the EU or not.  Being European doesn’t make a country a member of the EU. I can name 22 non-EU European countries.  Only ignorance makes Remainers conflate European with EU.

The EU lacks even the conditions that held the Soviet Union together for seventy years. Soviet citizens had a common identity, they had a single currency that worked and they all could speak a language that enabled them to live and work anywhere in that state.

So long term, I believe, the EU cannot last. If so, then better to get out now, because the EU is going to fight very hard indeed to hold itself together. This is also why it is fighting so hard to prevent Britain from leaving.

My hope back in 2016 was that “Rome would perish”. It’s still my hope now. If somehow the Remainers in combination with the EU force us to Remain, let us do all in our power to make the EU regret it. Let Britain be a Trojan horse that attacks the EU from within. Let us side with all those countries who have people and parties who oppose the EU and let us subvert it. We can veto everything we are allowed to veto, refuse to pay any more money. What can they do? Kick us out? We can refuse to do what we are told, just as Poland, Hungary and others refuse. If the EU makes us extend our membership, make them regret every day they hold us hostage.

But better by far, of course, if we can get out by October 31st. Boris has promised that he will get us out with a deal if possible or without one if necessary. Let him do this if can.

It may be possible for Boris to ask the EU for an extension in such a way that they refuse his request. If he promises to do everything in his power to bring down the EU temple like blind Samson:

Eyeless in Gaza, at the mill with slaves,
Himself in bonds under Philistian yoke.

would the EU really want Britain to stay as an unwilling and obstructive partner even temporarily?

I think a clear majority of British voters want to leave the EU.  Let us make clear that we are not going to give up. We are going to be as awkward as possible and do everything we can to make the EU work as poorly as possible, unless and until they let us go.

This tactic may fail. The EU may force us to extent our membership even though our Prime Minister makes clear that he is asking for an extension only because he is compelled by law and by a Parliament that won’t allow him an election. It may therefore be that despite the will of the British people expressed in the 2016 referendum and the 2017 General Election (where both Labour and the Conservative manifestos promised we would Leave), we are forced to extend our membership into 2020.

So be it. It doesn’t matter very much if we leave now, or in a few months. What matters is that we do indeed leave and leave completely. 

At some point there is going to be a General Election. The Remainers might form a temporary government before this. They have the numbers. They may elect a caretaker Prime Minister. They could in theory keep the whole thing going until the term of this Parliament runs out in 2022. They may revoke Article 50. 

None of these things matter in the long run.

Unless the Remainers with the backing of the Remainer Supreme Court abolish our democracy completely, we will have a General Election eventually. At that point it will be necessary for Leave voters to unite, think strategically and vote as one.

It won’t be Boris’s fault if he is forced to acquiesce in the extension of our EU membership. He had a plan to get us out, that was the only plan that might have worked. Only by saying we will Leave without a deal is it possible to improve the deal the EU is offering.

Boris may still find a way to get us out, but it’s hard to see how, not least because the Remainers in Parliament are conspiring with the EU. When was the last time MPs conspired with a foreign power to thwart the wishes of the electorate expressed in two elections?

I don’t see how anyone could have done more than Boris to get us out. The Remainers have the numbers in Parliament, the Supreme Court and the Remainer Speaker have overturned the principle that the Government governs. So, if we have to stay in the EU beyond October let us be clear where the blame lies. It lies with the Remainers who care more about staying in the EU than maintaining our constitutional and democratic traditions.  

It profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world  ... but for the EU, Mr Bercow?

What the Remainers want more desperately than anything else is to split the Leave vote. They know that if Leavers all vote for the Conservatives, Boris will get a majority, perhaps a landslide.

What they hope is that if they can make Boris break his promise to leave by October 31st, by metaphorically putting a gun to his head. They hope that Leave voters will desert him and vote for the Brexit Party. If that happens, the Brexit Party will not form the next Government, nor will the Conservatives. Instead we will get a Remainer Alliance of Labour, Lib Dems, SNP, Plaid et al. They will keep us in the EU, but the price will be that Irish and Scottish nationalists will get the chance to break up our country. 

The Leave campaign very nearly lost the 2016 referendum because it was split between Boris’s team and Farage’s team. Vote Leave, with Cummings as campaign adviser  and Boris leading, was hindered by Farage’s Leave.EU. Farage was popular with those who had already decided to vote Leave but he put off those who were undecided. Farage cost Leave votes.

Without UKIP we probably would never have had a referendum in the first place. Without the success of the Brexit Party in the 2019 European Elections, we probably would still be stuck with Theresa May, but let’s be absolutely clear, if the Leave vote goes into a General Election divided, we will lose.

I don’t think that an electoral pact is sensible. Boris cannot formally unite with Farage, because it would cost him votes. The British electorate is moderate. This is why UKIP hardly won a seat in Westminster. The Brexit Party will do no better. A party simply cannot go from zero seats to 326 in one go. So, if you vote for the Brexit Party, in effect you are voting for Remain. You are preventing the one Party that could get us out of the EU, the Conservatives, from gaining a majority.

It is time to get serious. If the Conservatives with Boris as Prime Minister don’t win a majority at the next election, then Leave voters will have lost. Then we will have to go back to relying on the long-term collapse of the EU. We will have a Remain Government and won’t get another chance for years. I believe the British electorate is going to react with calm, cold fury to the Remainer Rearguard, but our fury must be directed and above all else it must not be split. The best contribution Mr Farage can make now is to step aside and tell his Brexit Party not to stand. If that happens, we will definitely leave the EU and just maybe bring down the whole temple with us. Then Boris really would be the champion [Μπόρις ἀγωνιστής or Boris Agonistes].  

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

The Remainer rearguard

Prior to the 2016 European Union Referendum I had certain assumptions about Britain, our laws and our politics. It was inconceivable to me that we would have an election and the result not be implemented. I couldn’t imagine Labour winning an election and somehow being prevented from forming a Government. Equally I couldn’t imagine the result of a referendum not being honoured.

It never crossed my mind in 2014 that if Yes won the Scottish independence referendum that Scotland wouldn’t get to Leave the UK. I thought the SNP’s claims about the Scottish independence were exaggerated at best dishonest at worst. But we all had had the chance to contest the political claims of the Yes campaign. If they had won, I would have accepted the result. It never would have crossed my mind not to do so.

I did not expect to be given a second chance if my side had lost. This is why both sides put everything they had into the campaign. But something happened on that September night five years ago. For one moment, Scottish nationalists thought they had won and if Yes had come out ahead by the smallest percentage point they would have demanded that everyone in Scotland respect the result. But it was not to be. Perhaps the disappointment even the shock was too much. The Yes side didn’t accept its defeat for one moment and immediately campaigned to overturn the result.

Something similar happened in 2016. The polls told the Remainers that they had won. They had Obama, Merkel, the Bank of England all three main UK parties campaigning for Remain. The Conservative Government used the full powers of the state to persuade us that if we dared to vote to Leave the EU poverty, recession, unemployment and the end of the UK would follow.

The Remainer consensus embraces nearly everyone who works at a university.  Doctors, lawyers, teachers, the sort of people who are used to telling the rest of us what to do were quite certain that Remain had won. But we didn’t do what we were told.

The liberal consensus, that embraces the BBC, the Tory Wets, Lib Lab Dems, the Arts and people like Richard Branson, is used to being obeyed. They reacted with shock to that June night in 2016, this developed into fury and finally a determination that they would be obeyed.

It didn’t take long for the Remainer rearguard to get organized. They all said that they respected the result of the referendum. But they were all lying.

Theresa May began by saying that “No deal was better than a bad deal”, but she didn’t mean it. She said that “Brexit means, Brexit” but she meant “Brexit, means Remain”.

Until 2016 it was universally accepted that Government would implement the result of a referendum. It would have been considered outrageous if Parliament had tried to prevent the establishment of a Scottish Parliament after the Scottish electorate had voted for one. But convention was overturned by the courts. Parliament had to vote on whatever deal Theresa May brought back from Brussels.

Up until 2016 it was Governments that conducted international relations. Governments have declared war and made peace without Parliament being asked to vote. But all of this was overthrown by the Remainer rearguard.

If the British people and Parliament had all accepted the 2016 referendum result, united we could perhaps have obtained a fair deal from the EU. But in part because the EU wanted to punish Britain and in part because the Remainer rearguard conspired with the EU, Theresa May brought back a deal that was perhaps the worst treaty in British history.

Given the choice between Theresa May’s deal and Remaining I would have chosen to Remain.

Both Brexiteers and Remainers agreed that the deal was unacceptable and voted it down three times.

All this time the Remainer rearguard was fighting to overturn the 2016 referendum result. First, they argued for a second referendum, but as their confidence grew, they argued to simply revoke Article 50 and annul the result. They were determined to be obeyed.

The Conservative Party came close to extinction in May. Theresa May had broken her promise to get Britain out of the EU by March 31st and Conservatives in their millions deserted for the Brexit Party.

It was this and this alone that prised the limpet like Theresa May away from Downing Street.

Boris was elected overwhelmingly to be Conservative leader. What was he supposed to do? He knew that presenting Theresa May’s dreadful deal one more time would not succeed and if it did it would destroy the Conservative Party. He therefore came up with the only sensible Brexit strategy that existed. He proposed to negotiate with the EU with the proviso that if the negotiations failed, we would leave anyway.

Would this have succeeded? Perhaps. The EU just might have been willing to set a time limit to the Irish backstop. They might just have modified the deal slightly or allowed the UK Parliament a future say on whether we wished to be bound by the treaty. They might have given us an exit clause.

But this strategy, which was the only way to improve the deal, was sabotaged by Parliament.

Why did they do this? Was it because they wanted to vote for Theresa May’s deal? No. The Remainer majority would vote down that deal again. Did they want to find some other way of negotiating with the EU to improve the deal. No. They don’t want to improve it. They want to annul it. They want to Remain.

Boris Johnson did not attempt to shut down Parliament. He merely asked the Queen to prorogue Parliament as has been done on numerous occasions before. He did not of course lie to the Queen, because he was simply doing what any number of his predecessors had done. If that had not been the case the Privy Council would not have gone along with the prorogation. I am not a liar if I say theft is illegal, only for the courts to rule that thieves should be commended.

So, Parliament is going to sit again. What is it going to do? It has wrecked Johnson’s chance of improving the deal with the EU, and it has ruled that leaving without a deal is illegal. What does Parliament propose? An extension? But for what purpose. Parliament will neither vote for Theresa May’s deal, nor try to improve the deal, nor allow us to leave without a deal. Let them at least be honest and clear about what they want the extension to achieve. They want it to enable us to Remain.

Boris Johnson has proposed that we have an election as soon as possible. But the Remainers have blocked this. Why? Because they fear that he would win by a landslide. Instead they hope that by forcing him to break his promise to get us out of the EU come what may by October 31st they will somehow split the Leave vote between the Conservatives and the Brexit Party.

Everything of consequences has already been said in Parliament. Johnson’s prorogation didn’t stop Parliament voting him down in a vote of no confidence, nor did it stop them wrecking his chance of getting a better deal. But the “supreme” court which of course is not supreme at all because it is subordinate to EU law has decided to overturn the longstanding and commonplace principle that a Prime Minister can ask the Queen to end a parliamentary session. It has come close to overturning the foundations of British Government that it is the Government that governs and not Parliament.

This no longer has anything to do with the EU. This is about whether we have to obey the liberal establishment and whether we live in a fully functional democracy or instead in a place where you have to keep voting until you give the right answer. This would be more Supreme Soviet than Parliament.

If there had been a court case ten years ago as to whether the Prime Minister had the right to prorogue Parliament the “supreme” court would have thrown it out instantly. But the Remainer Rearguard has grown and extended its reach as it has built on its success and as it has become ever more confident. It now senses that it can indeed overturn Brexit. It probably can. It quite possibly will.

Just because someone is called a judge it doesn’t make him impartial. There have been any number of judges in history who have allowed their judgement to be swayed by their politics. How many of these “supreme” court judges voted to Leave the EU? How many were shocked and dismayed by the result? How many found their expectation that they would be obeyed undermined by our Brexit rebellion. How may have joined the Remainer rearguard?

Given the choice between being ruled by unelected judges and unelected colonels I would choose the latter. The colonels would at least be more honest about their subversion of democracy.

Watch Z (1969) by Costa Gavras. Otherwise we too might be banned from using the letter Z [i.e. ζει he lives].

Sunday, 22 September 2019

Is a shared future possible in Scotland?

I can’t really see how there can be another referendum on anything in the UK. What would be the point? But the problem with holding referendums has been demonstrated lately not merely by losers trying to block the result in Parliament and through the courts, but perhaps more importantly by it becoming ever clearer that the nature of the question asked dramatically changes the answer given.

If Scots are asked “Should Scotland be an independent country?” we get one result. If they are asked should Scotland remain in the UK or leave the UK, we get another. It’s quite clear that campaigning for Yes gives independence supporters an advantage. It is for this reason that the Electoral Commission did not allow a Yes/No question for the referendum on Brexit. The precedent is clear. But why should asking what on the surface are similar questions result in widely differing results? After all the result would be the same if Scotland left the UK as if we became an independent country.

There is however confusion in the minds of many independence supporters. When they are asked “Should Scotland be an independent country?” many of them think we already are. The use of “be” in the question rather than “become” plays on this.

When I point out to independence supporters that Scotland is to the UK as Saxony is to Germany I am met with incomprehension and frequently fury. I sometimes wonder if this is because independence supporters are unaware that Saxony was independent as recently as 1866. Are they equally unaware that nearly all European nation states are made up of parts which formerly were independent as indeed were the various parts of Scotland? Historically Scotland’s position as part of the UK is no different to Burgundy’s being a part of France, so why should pointing out something that is self-evidently true lead to such fury?

The difference is that people living in places that used to be independent in Italy, Germany or France do not generally think of themselves as living in a different country from their fellow citizens. It is correct to call Scotland a country, but it is anomalous. How many non-independent countries can you name?

Scotland has many of the things that typically go along with being an independent nation state. We have our own bank notes. France doesn’t. We frequently play international sport.  We think that people from England live in a different country to us and that there is a border between us. No wonder many Scots answer the question “Should Scotland be an independent country?” by replying, of course, because we already are.

For the past centuries Scotland has maintained an independent identity, but many Scots also have been happy for us to be a part of the UK. What they want therefore is for Scotland to be both independent and to remain part of the UK.  This is why when I point out to a Scottish nationalist that Scotland isn’t really independent, but is rather similar to Saxony, I am met with fury. Yet perversely this same person wants Scotland to become independent. You cannot logically become what you already are.

But none of us is entirely rational.  We do live in a different country to others in the UK, but neither England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland are sovereign nation states, though they are frequently called nations. The UK like Germany, France and nearly all the other countries in the world is part of the UN, it is a member of NATO and a contributor to the IMF. Scotland isn’t. The UK has diplomatic relations with other countries, Scotland doesn’t. The UK is a country in every language of the world except that spoken by some Scots. Most languages and most countries use a different word for their non-independent parts. But we don’t.

There is an ambiguity about Scotland that has allowed us in some ways to think of ourselves as separate even independent, but in other ways to think of ourselves as part of a whole. This is why different questions get different answers.

A similar ambiguity applies to the EU. Can member states both be in the EU and maintain their independence? The issue here is what will happen to the EU as “ever closer union” reaches its τέλος [telos, or goal]. Will the EU become a sovereign nation state like the USA or indeed the UK. Will the parts of the EU while still being called countries really become the equivalent of Saxony or dare, I say Scotland? Some EU supporters try to argue that a United States of Europe could never happen. But it already has many of the characteristics of an independent country. It has its own currency. Its own president. Soon it will have its own army. The EU now is much more united than the United States was in 1859, and arguably more united than the Second Reich was between 1871 and 1918.

Scottish nationalists who want to remain in the EU obviously think that independence is compatible with EU membership, why then do they think that it is incompatible with UK membership? EU law would supersede the laws of an independent Scotland and what an independent Scottish Parliament wanted would depend in part on the agreement of the EU. But if you are happy with that, why are you not happy with a similar arrangement with the UK?

If the EU were modelled on the USA, I would have been happy to remain a member state. I think the USA has the advantage of a common language and identity, but perhaps the EU could develop these over time. It’s the lack of genuine democracy in the EU that makes leaving essential.

But in what respect does Scotland’s membership of the UK lack democracy? We vote for MPs who have just the same power as every other MP. Not only that we vote for MSPs who have the power to control huge areas of Scottish life. We cannot of course veto what the majority in the UK want, but we would have to go along with the majority in most cases as part of the EU. In any democracy including an independent Scotland the parts may be outvoted by the whole, but this is not a fault in democracy, it is rather the main feature of any democracy. But anyway, why should Scots be happy to accept the majority view in EU wide elections, but unhappy to do so in UK wide elections? This makes no sense as we have far more in common with other people in the UK than we do with almost anyone in the EU.

Independence supporters had the advantage of campaigning for Yes, but they also had the advantage of campaigning for something that most of us think of in a positive way. When a child leaves school and goes to university he becomes an adult. He gains his independence. The same is the case when someone gets his first job or goes on holiday without his parents for the first time. Independence in all our lives is a positive concept. It is dreadful when an older person loses his independence. 

There is therefore an intrinsic bias in asking people if they want independence. But let’s look further at the case of someone going to university. That person wants independence, but does he also want to lose his family? If independence meant destroying his family would he take it, or rather would he do everything to protect and defend his family.

If Scotland left the UK, the UK would cease to exist. It could hardly be called united when it was in fact disunited. But does one member of a family have the right to destroy the whole, without that whole also having a say. We each as individuals want to be able to live independent lives, but we take into account the wishes of our family.

I believe that many Scots want us to be both independent and part of the UK. We need therefore to clearly define what is compatible with this and what is not. Only in this way would it be possible to ask a fair question and perhaps come up with a solution that satisfies those Scots who voted Yes and those who voted No.

It is necessary to recognise the sovereignty of each part of the UK and indeed each part of Scotland. Each voter is sovereign. But we all share this sovereignty.  As individuals we should be as independent as possible but recognise that there are limits to our independence. A family depends on a husband and a wife promising to be faithful. They have a responsibility to look after their children. The children have duty to their family even when they become independent adults and create their own family.

The UK needs stability. No family can survive constant threats that the husband or wife will depart. We don’t need anybody else’s model or constitution. But we do need to find a way to reflect the reality of what living here means.

Scottish international rugby players may belt out flower of Scotland and are clearly willing to fight for Scotland, but many if not most voted for Scotland to remain a part of the UK.  Andy Murray plays his heart out for Britain but voted to leave. Each of these people have a mixture of feelings about Scotland and the UK. They both want Scotland to be independent and part of the UK. We want to remain part of the family while being able to metaphorically go to university and get a job. We want to be grown up.

Somehow Pro UK Scots and independence supporters need to work together. If we satisfy only one half of our country in a winner takes all battle, we will always be divided. The referendum of 2014 did not bring unity, just more division. It would be no different if there were to be a second referendum. Whatever the result, the loser would try to annul it. Better by far if we could find what would satisfy some of the wishes of both sides. Better for both sides to gain something than to lose everything. Don’t we want somehow to be both independent and a part of the UK? Like the Trinity this is not easily comprehensible. One God in three persons or in our case four. It may even involve a contradiction, but unity in diversity is the only way to bring harmony back to Scotland. 

Saturday, 21 September 2019

The Pro UK argument has to learn from Brexit

The main lesson to take from the EU referendum in 2016 is that a positive, hopeful, patriotic argument beats a negative, pessimistic anti-British argument. The Remainers were unable or unwilling to make a positive case for the EU. They rarely told us of the benefits that the EU brings. There are, of course, many benefits to being in the EU. Some of these British people may well miss. But rather than make a positive argument the Remainers chose to go down the Project Fear II route. This is why they lost and it is also why they will lose any future General Election based on the same arguments. The British electorate is not going to vote for people who think Britain is so hopeless we can’t even manage to leave the EU. We are not going to vote for people who want Britain to fail and we are not going to vote for people who conspire with the EU to make it harder for us to leave. Remainers waving their EU flags and siding with the EU on everything look downright unpatriotic. It’s not a vote winner.

In Scotland we must learn this lesson too. Project Fear I, otherwise known as the Better Together Campaign, cost the Pro UK argument 20-30% of the vote. The paradox is that telling independence supporters all the awful things that will happen if they dared to vote to Leave the UK makes them want to leave all the more. Worse it converts some formerly Pro UK people or those who were neutral.

It is for this reason above all that I wish there were no Gers figures released each year. Hardly any Scots read them in any detail. We just read a few stories in the papers that are negative about Scotland. There is an annual argument where the “Pro UK” side pretends that these figures make Scottish independence impossible, which persuades not one single independence supporter to change his mind, but rather persuades some waverers to embrace the independence message as an antidote to all the negativity.

I have lost count of the number of new nation states that have been formed since around 1990. The breakup of the Soviet Union created 15. The breakup of Yugoslavia created 6. The breakup of Czechoslovakia created 2. Every single one of them managed. Some of them have done better than others. But the idea that Scotland could not manage outside the UK is as preposterous as the idea that Croatia could not manage outside Yugoslavia or indeed that Britain can’t manage outside the EU.

Leaving the EU will bring with it challenges that have to be overcome. But they will be far fewer than the ones that Estonia faced when leaving the USSR. The UK has been a fully functioning independent nation state for centuries. What’s more we know what it is like to live outside the EU, because we did so for all but forty of those years. The UK won’t have to set up the things that make being a nation state possible, like a currency, armed forces and a civil service. We have those things already. All we will have to do is set up trade relations and revert to doing ourselves what the EU at present does for us.

Scotland right now is much more prosperous any Eastern European country. We also have a higher standard of living than most Southern European countries. We have good universities, wonderful scenery and lots of empty spaces. The best thing about living here is that our roads are less busy than elsewhere and our towns less cramped. Our beaches may be chilly, but we share them with few others.

If history had been otherwise, Scotland might right now be a successful independent nation state, but then so too could the parts of most European countries. If history had turned out differently, we might have an independent Saxony, an independent Burgundy and Portugal might have ended up part of Spain. It no more follows from the fact that Scotland could be independent that it ought to be than it follows for Bavaria or Flanders. Each of these places once was independent and no doubt could be again.

Would Bavaria be more prosperous if it wasn’t part of Germany? Who knows? Is Slovakia more prosperous because it ceased to be part of Czechoslovakia? The prosperity of both parts today is similar.

Independence would be a challenge. It certainly would involve a great deal more change for Scotland to leave the UK than for the UK to leave the EU. But after a few years these challenges would be overcome. Every other newly independent nation state managed. Why couldn’t Scotland? But after all that overcoming it probably wouldn’t change the standard of living here very much.

The Irish economy is closely connected with the UK economy even though Ireland hasn’t been part of the UK for nearly 100 years. The north-south divide in the UK which was caused by the industrial revolution is still with us. The south of Italy is much less prosperous than the north. But if the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies had remained independent the people living there would doubtless still be less prosperous than those living in Turin and Milan. If Italy broke up and its parts became independent again, they would be no better off, for independence doesn’t change the economic fundamentals.

The nature of the Scottish economy today is a function of our climate, our land and our history. The industrialised parts of Scotland brought us wealth in the nineteenth century but became our rust belt in the twentieth.  The challenge is the same for Glasgow as it is for Belfast, Newcastle and Swansea. Independence wouldn’t change that challenge and wouldn’t make it easier. People in Detroit and Pittsburgh might think that independence for Pennsylvania and Michigan would bring them wealth, but the question of what to do with old inefficient industry and how to revive once prosperous cities would be just the same and no easier to answer.

The UK is going to go through a major change if and when we leave the EU. Scotland would have to go through still greater change on top of this in order to leave the UK. If you think a “no deal” Brexit is scary and will involve disruption, then you will have to be aware that an independent Scotland would have to go through the process of setting up a new nation state while at least initially being both outside the UK and the EU.  

No doubt we would manage, but I rather think independence supporters would be disappointed.  Their socialist expectations would no more improve their standard of living than they have in any other country that has tried this experiment. They might find that low tax, free market post Brexit Britain was doing rather better.  I strongly suspect that within ten years there would be Tories running an independent Scotland and we would have reverted to type. We would go back to being the careful, frugal Scots of history and the economics of an independent Scotland would be more Adam Smith than Common Weal, for that would be the only way to bring more wealth to our nation.  

Prosperity requires the traditionally Scottish virtues of living within your means, hard work and carefulness with money. None of these require independence, which is a get rich quick scheme promising wealth without effort and if we just spend enough of someone else’s money we’ll all be rich. Scots have known for centuries that the opposite is true.