Saturday 24 August 2019

A plague of yellowhammers

If Remainers were bookmakers, they would have been out of business long ago. Their ability to predict future events ranks with prophets predicting the end of the world is nigh. Next time you see someone ranting in the street calling on you to repent your sins because the world is going to end on October 31st it is important to realise that neither of you can predict the future. But we have seen this sandwich board wearer before. He told us that the world was going to end in 2016. The sin of rejecting the great God Europa would see us cast out. There would be ten plagues and we would wander aimlessly until a people’s vote brought us back to the promised land of Eu. 

The problem with Remainer predictions about anything is that they are all systematically biased. It is for this reason that they have no predictive validity at all. In Britain we know that weather forecasts are unreliable because our weather is so changeable. But imagine if the weather forecasters were systematically pessimistic about the future of British weather and wanted each summer to be wet and cold. This is the problem with Remainer predictions. They want the British economy to be dependent on the EU. For this reason, they predicted in 2016 that a vote to Leave would immediately lead to recession and job losses. The opposite occurred.

But to predict anything accurately you have to be unbiased. Pseudoscience wants to confirm all its theories, rejecting any that contradict the prediction. Meteorology can only be a science if it accepts that its predictions both in the short term and the long term may be wrong. The bias of the Remainer makes everything he predicts worthless and no more worthy of attention than the preacher ranting in the street.

If weather forecasting is an inexact science, economics isn’t really a science at all. Economists cannot predict what the stock-market will do tomorrow. They cannot predict recessions nor can they predict crashes. There are some general economic principles that are useful, but human behaviour is so complex and adaptable that no one has been able to predict with accuracy what will happen tomorrow, next week or next year. It is for this reason above all that planned economies don’t work. Human nature is chaotic for which reason we suit free markets rather than socialism. To plan our economy means to attempt to control and regiment human nature. Socialism always makes us less free because freedom depends on free markets, supply and demand.

I can’t predict what will happen if the UK leaves the EU on October 31st without a deal. It would be a big change, perhaps the biggest change in UK politics and economics since 1945. If the EU decides to continue to try to punish Britain things could be difficult for a while. France could decide to check every lorry for five hours. British tourists going to Spain may be told they need to wait in a queue while each page of their passport is scanned. There are things that Britain cannot control. There are things we cannot predict. We are all going to have to wait and see.

But as an alternative to all the negativity it is worth pointing out that there are definite advantages to leaving the EU without a deal. These I think will outweigh any short-term disruption. The reforms Margaret Thatcher introduced in the 1980s led to short term recession, job losses and sometimes disorder, but they paved the way for a radical changes in the UK economy that brought us long term efficiency, greater competitiveness and prosperity. So too completely leaving the EU without a deal will more quickly bring the benefits of Brexit to Britain.  

Brexit is above all about bringing sovereignty back to the UK. No longer will laws made in Brussels supersede laws made in the UK. We voted in 2016 to bring back control. We have waited long enough. The EU is the equivalent of the inefficient working practices of 1970s nationalised industries. The EU tries to plan and regulate everything rather than allowing the free market to determine the best way of working and how to trade. The EU inhibits free trade because it only allows "free trade" between member states on payment of a fee. When you pay for something in a shop, it obviously isn't free. The EU imposes a common external tariff on trade with non members. Anyone who wants genuine free trade with as much of the world as possible should realise that it is the EU that prevents this. We don't have free trade with the EU, because we pay, and they stop us trading freely with those who don't demand payment. The sooner we get out, the sooner we can get on with gaining the benefits that real free trade brings with it.

If we leave the EU without a deal, Britain will not have to pay £38 Billion pounds to the EU. Doubtless Britain owes the EU something but having paid into the EU for the past 40 years doubtless the EU owes Britain something too. Let’s go to arbitration. Let’s have a non-EU court determine what each side owes. In this way we might not only save the £38 Billion we may end up with a profit too.

Leaving the EU without a deal means that the issue of the border in Ireland ceases to be Britain’s problem. We don’t intend to make any checks at the border. We will make those few checks that are necessary so as to inconvenience both British and Irish citizens as little as possible. But the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland is an international border and it will become the border between the EU and the non-EU. If the EU insists on controls, it will be up to the Irish and their EU friends to determine how to do it. Most likely the EU border will end up between Ireland and the continent.

Ireland has wanted both full access to the UK single market and full access to the EU single market. Brexit demonstrates that this is simply not possible. This will prove a salutary lesson to Scottish nationalists. Independence creates an international border and this has consequences. Sometimes those consequences are not revealed until one hundred years have passed. If Irish trade with the UK is devastated, the simple solution would be for Ireland to leave the EU as well. They won’t do so because the hatred for Britain that they have demonstrated lately runs too deep. Millions of Irish families like mine settled in Britain. Most of us benefited from the move. But the Irish gave Britain little credit for providing us with homes, jobs and a standard of living we could not at that time find in Ireland. Instead British affection for Ireland is most likely to be answered with hostility. So, if things go badly for Ireland after Halloween, whose fault really will it be? This too is a lesson for Scotland. I strongly suspect that the example of Ireland will hold the UK together. Scotland's trade relationship with the UK depends on being a part of the UK. Ireland's example will clarify this very nicely. 

The greatest danger for Brexiteers now is that the EU concedes ground on the Irish backstop. Better by far to get out completely. The worst aspect of Theresa May’s deal was the backstop, but the rest of it too left us controlled by the EU for years and sometimes indefinitely. We have all seen how the EU operates. They are hostile to Britain and want to punish us.  Does anyone fancy two more years subject to EU laws and regulations with no say in them whatsoever? Does anyone fancy trade negotiations after we have already handed over our billions and our best cards. No. Theresa May’s deal was the worst treaty in British history. Let's be done and dump the whole thing now. If the EU later wants a genuinely reciprocal free trade deal with nothing else attached and no costs, let it ask for one. Until then we can buy our cars from the USA and our wine from Australia. There is nothing the EU produces that we can't get elsewhere. Who loses?

There will be surprises after Halloween if we leave without a deal. We will all have to be ready to work hard to make Brexit a success. We need to get rid of the pessimism because it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Our future success is in our own hands.  The future is not determined. A no deal Brexit will be wildly popular in at least half of Britain. It will humiliate Theresa May and instead of a Labour/SNP pact giving us indyref2, a no deal Brexit will give Boris Johnson a majority, perhaps even a  landslide. If we don’t get a plague of yellowhammers, sometime in November, the Remainers will once more look ridiculous. After three years of national humiliation we will be able to tell the EU and Leo Varadkar where to go. I would stand in a very long queue to be able to do that. Just like Brexit, it would be worth it.