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#StrongerIn: Brexiteers defiant in face of evidence

Guest contributor




160516FlatEarth2A bunch of busy-bodies, intent on undermining British national sovereignty, have written a letter arguing that it would be a mistake for the UK to leave the European Union. These traitors, nearly 200 in number, call themselves economists and they are to be found lurking in “universities” and “think-tanks” across the UK from St. Andrews to Bristol – one of them is even a Belgian. The universities are in the pocket of European federalists, receiving funds from the European Research Council, Erasmus, Jean Monnet and Marie Skłodowska-Curie.

At least, this is how we expect the Leave campaign to react, writes Tom Slaughter.

The letter:

“Focusing entirely on the economics, we consider that it would be a major mistake for the UK to leave the European Union.

“Leaving would entail significant long-term costs. The size of these costs would depend on the amount of control the UK chooses to exercise over such matters as free movement of labour, and the associated penalty it would pay in terms of access to the single market. The numbers calculated by the LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance, the OECD and the Treasury describe a plausible range for the scale of these costs.

“The uncertainty over precisely what kind of relationship the UK would find itself in with the EU and the rest of the world would also weigh heavily for many years. In addition, there is a sizeable risk of a short-term shock to confidence if we were to see a 'Leave' vote on 23 June. The Bank of England has signalled this concern clearly, and we share it.”

That’s it; short, simple and unambiguous.

Forecast 'Schmorecast'

Professor Simon Wren-Lewis, the Guy Fawkes of this cabal, points out that the Leave campaign’s response to these forecasts on the impact of a ‘Leave’ vote is to dismiss all forecasts:

“The main response of the 'Leave' campaign has been to say all economic forecasts are hopeless. They are no doubt referring to unconditional macro forecasts of the ‘what will growth be next year’ type. However the assessments made by all these economists and economic institutions are not unconditional forecasts, but conditional forecasts: what difference will Brexit make. They are much more reliable than unconditional forecasts. This point can be got across with simple analogies: a doctor will tell you that being overweight increases the chance of a heart attack, but not when you will have one.

“So trying to discount the near-universal assessment of economists by referring to macro forecasts either represents dangerous ignorance or deliberate obfuscation. But for those with little knowledge of these things, it is a deception that could work. Pointing out the difference does not breach impartiality, but informs the debate.”

Professor Wren-Lewis points out that current reporting amounts to a failure of journalism, by taking a ‘shape of the Earth: views differ’ style of reporting, those who have the aim of being impartial are in fact failing the public in a duty to give the correct weight to different arguments and challenge misunderstandings.

The next… Albania, Singapore, Iceland, China, Norway, Switzerland, the old Commonwealth

In the aftermath of the referendum, assuming that the British people have had the good sense to vote ‘Yes’, I imagine that the ‘Leave’ post-mortem will say that one of their main strategic errors was the failure to offer a credible alternative. Instead the voter has been taken on a journey to some very exotic places that he may not have dared to imagine.

One minute, British citizens (sorry subjects) are offered a bright future as the next Albania (who, by the way, desperately want to join the EU), the next they are going to be a big Singapore, but colder and windier, a sort of giant Canary Wharf in the North . Occasionally there is a dose of realism and the Leave campaign look to more plausible options such as being Iceland or Switzerland, but with less regulation.

The sad reality is that the Swiss, Norwegians, Icelanders, and even the plucky little Liechtensteiners have to follow the diktats of ‘Brussels’ if they want to have access to the single market. This is a pretty outrageous assault on their sovereignty, but to be fair they have signed up to it and chosen not to become full EU members.

No, you don't need to be in the EU, but you do have to stick to EU regulations that you have had no say in making. 'Brussels' is of course the sum of its parts and that means 28 countries reaching an agreement, usually through long negotiation and a degree of compromise. The Brexiteers seem to think that there will be no compromise involved in negotiating with 162 countries in the WTO or with the 53 countries of the Commonwealth.

There may be other reasons to leave the EU, but 'Leave' has lost this round.

#StrongerIn: IMF warns that even 1% drop in UK GDP would more than offset UK’s contribution to EU budget


UK sends two navy boats to Jersey after France threatens blockade





The Mont Orgueil Castle is seen behind an island flag at Gorey Harbour in Jersey, in this February 26, 2008 file photo.  REUTERS/Toby Melville

Britain is sending two navy patrol boats to the British Channel Island of Jersey after France suggested it could cut power supplies to the island if its fishermen are not granted full access to UK fishing waters under post-Brexit trading terms, write Richard Lough and Andrew Macaskill.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged his "unwavering support" for the island after he spoke with Jersey officials about the prospect of the French blockade.

Johnson "stressed the urgent need for a de-escalation in tensions," a spokesperson for Johnson said. "As a precautionary measure the UK will be sending two Offshore Patrol Vessels to monitor the situation."

Earlier, France's Seas Minister Annick Girardin said she was "disgusted" to learn that Jersey had issued 41 licences with unilaterally imposed conditions, including the time French fishing vessels could spend in its waters.

"In the (Brexit) deal there are retaliatory measures. Well, we're ready to use them," Girardin told France's National Assembly on Tuesday (4 May).

"Regarding Jersey, I remind you of the delivery of electricity along underwater cables ... Even if it would be regrettable if we had to do it, we'll do it if we have to."

With a population of 108,000, Jersey imports 95% of its electricity from France, with diesel generators and gas turbines providing backup, according to energy news agency S&P Global Platts.

Jersey's government said France and the European Union had expressed their unhappiness with the conditions placed on the issuance of fishing licences.

Jersey’s external relations minister, Ian Gorst, said the island had issued permits in accordance with the post-Brexit trade terms, and that they stipulated any new licence must reflect how much time a vessel had spent in Jersey's waters before Brexit.

"We are entering a new era and it takes time for all to adjust. Jersey has consistently shown its commitment to finding a smooth transition to the new regime," Horst said in a statement.

The rocky island sits 14 miles (23 km) off the northern French coast and 85 miles (140 km) south of Britain's shores.

The French threat is the latest flare-up over fishing rights between the two countries.

Last month, French trawlermen angered by delays to licences to fish in British waters blocked lorries carrying UK-landed fish with burning barricades as they arrived in Boulogne-sur-Mer, Europe’s largest seafood processing centre.

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Brexit barriers in focus as Northern Ireland's DUP kicks off leadership contest





Democratic Unionist Party's (DUP) Edwin Poots makes a statement to the media outside Stormont Castle in Belfast, Northern Ireland June 28, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne/File Photo

Northern' Ireland's biggest party was set for its first ever leadership election after its Westminster chief Jeffrey Donaldson threw his hat into the ring, promising to focus on the divisive issue of post-Brexit trade barriers.

Donaldson will stand against Edwin Poots to lead the Democratic Unionist Party at a time of heightened instability in the British province and unionist anger over the installation of a customs border in the Irish Sea.

Both Donaldson and Poots, Northern Ireland's agriculture minister, stopped short of making detailed campaign promises. But Britain, Ireland and the rest of Europe will be watching for any hardening of stances on Brexit or social issues including abortion that could alter the political balance ahead of elections next year.

The DUP currently leads Northern Ireland in a power-sharing government with its Irish nationalist rivals Sinn Fein.

Donaldson or Poots will take over the leadership from Arlene Foster who announced last week she was stepping down as Northern Ireland's First Minister at the end of June, bowing to pressure from party members unhappy at her leadership. Read more

Her departure has added to instability in the region, where angry young pro-British loyalists rioted in recent weeks, partly over the barriers that they feel have cut them off from the rest of the UK.

"I will develop and swiftly implement an agreed programme of meaningful reform and clear policy direction on key challenges like the protocol," Donaldson said in a video announcement, referring to the post-Brexit trading arrangements.

Like Foster, Donaldson, 58, is a former member of the more moderate Ulster Unionist Party. He was part of the negotiating team that stuck a deal to prop up the government of former British Prime Minister Theresa May in 2017.

Once the DUP's support was no longer needed, May's successor Boris Johnson broke the party's "blood red line" and agreed to erect the trade barriers.

Poots, 55, is one of a number of DUP ministers who have protested against the Brexit arrangements by refusing to attend meetings with Irish counterparts established under the 1998 peace deal that ended 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland.

Poots, a young earth creationist who rejects the theory of evolution, announced he was standing last week.

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Statement by Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič following the conclusion of the EU-UK Trade and Co-operation Agreement

EU Reporter Correspondent



European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič warmly welcomes the ratification of the EU-UK Trade and Co-operation Agreement, which will now be fully applicable as of 1 May 2021. This comes after an overwhelming vote of consent by the European Parliament on 27 April and subsequent Council decision today, thereby concluding the ratification process. The EU and the UK will exchange letters to that effect.  

"The ratification of the Trade and Co-operation Agreement is good news for European citizens and businesses. It provides a solid foundation for our longstanding friendship, co-operation and partnership with the United Kingdom on the basis of shared interests and values.

"In practice, the Agreement helps avoid significant disruptions, while protecting European interests and upholding the integrity of our Single Market. It also ensures a robust level playing field, by maintaining high levels of protection in areas, such as climate and environmental protection, social and labour rights, or state aid. Moreover, the Agreement includes effective enforcement, a binding dispute settlement mechanism and the possibility for both parties to take remedial measures.

"Democratic scrutiny will continue to be key in the implementation phase of the Agreement in order to ensure faithful compliance. Unity among EU institutions and member states will remain a cornerstone during this new chapter in our EU-UK relations." 

Vice President Šefčovič reiterates that the European Commission looks forward to a strong, constructive and collaborative partnership with the United Kingdom, based on mutual trust and respect. We have far more in common than that which divides us. He will reach out this week to Lord David Frost, co-chair of the EU-UK Partnership Council, to prepare the launch of its work, including the work of Specialized Committees.  

Finally, the Commission will continue to work tirelessly for joint solutions so that the Withdrawal Agreement, and the Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland in particular, is also fully implemented and works for the benefit of everyone in Northern Ireland.

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