POSTINGS

26-Feb-2017

Festivals Delayed

The plans to launch an annual referendum festival for Scotland have been pushed back until May 2018.

RefFest2018_270However the inaugural festival will still be themed IndyRef2. And the promoters remain convinced that Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, will live up to her frequently repeated promise to fund a second independence referendum with the approval of the UK government.

A spokesperson for the promoters said that the main cause of the festival being delayed was the lack of meaningful progress towards implementing the result of the 2016 referendum on EU membership. It’s hard to kick-off a new referendum when the previous one is still being argued over said the spokesperson.

The hope is that by this time next year the situation will be that much clearer and the IndyRef2 campaign can start. However the second annual festival planned for 2018 - EuroRef2 - may now have to go back to 2020 thus making the event into a biennial promotion. The spokesperson confirmed that this was the most likely outcome given that referendum fatigue was in danger of reducing its appeal to both sponsors and the public. Also if the 2018 result was in favour of  leaving the UK then 2019 would be a year taken up with implementing its consequences. The idea of linking the festival to a song contest that would select Scotland’s Eurovision entry was confirmed as dead in the water due to a total lack of support.

tags: referendum, vote, annual, event, UK, Scotland

 

23-Feb-2017

Too Big Too Slow

The project that was too big to stop - the High Speed rail service between London and Birmingham (HS2) - received its final political approval today. Phase one of the 55,700 million scheme is scheduled to start construction within a few months and be open for fare-paying passengers in nine years time.

HS2_Plan1This will be followed by Phase 2a from the West Midlands to Crewe around a year later and Phase 2b from Crewe to  Manchester and from the West Midlands to Leeds sometime in 2033 - if things go well.

The reasons why this approach to rail network improvement makes good economic sense when compared to the alternatives are hard to find or - more likely - non-existent. Simply following the example set by the motorways and upgrading existing routes to four track instead of two - while also doubling the production of conventional high speed trains - would have benefited so many more people for so much less expense.

However that would not have fitted in with the plans produced by Brussels (yes, them again) for their high-speed Euro rail network - all the way to Turkey (yes, I know that they are not a member but Brussels has big ideas). So it is a touch ironic that Britain will, in theory, have left the EU well before the UK part of the Euro rail plan reaches Birmingham. I wonder if Brussels had promised any funding before our vote to leave?

But still we have not left yet. And in the 245 days that have passed since the historic EU vote no one has been able to send the official resignation letter - so we could be still in limbo when that first train sets out for Birmingham Curzon Street in 2026.

tags: train, travel, change, railway, network, HS2, waste, misguided

 

17-Feb-2017

In Denial

In 1999 the Charlemagne Prize of Aachen went to a certain Anthony C L Blair for his efforts towards creating a united Europe.

billy-liar300Lionel Jospin, then French Prime Minister, said at the award - 16 years lie between the founding of the European Economic Community and Britain’s accession; 11 years went by before Great Britain joined the European currency system; 6 years—and only 6 years separate the composition of the Social Charter and it’s signing by Great Britain. We have you to thank, Tony Blair, for the shortening of these intervals.

In reply ACLB said - Our first phase was peace within the EU; our second phase is meeting the new global challenge. The next era must be how we build Europe's strength, power and responsibility vis--vis the outside world.

In 2016 the UK rejected the prospect of a Europe under a single administration and voted to regain its independence. A Brexit process that has not yet got past first base.

Today we have our former PM and unelected millionaire using his money and past position to change the minds - and votes - of the British public by kicking off a programme of re-education. The publicity event hosting him being organised by Open Britain - a pro-EU think tank lead by Peter Mandelson and Roland Rudd. Mandelson was famously dubbed Prince of Darkness well before he became Baron Mandelson of Foy and Hartlepool. And just this month he was awarded the French Legion d'Honneur for a career serving the United Kingdom and the European Union and being a long-time friend of France. Rudd is a PR millionaire and brother of the Home Secretary Amber Rudd.

Earlier there were press claims that ACLB was putting 9 million into a PR vehicle to change our minds over - or at least cause the maximum trouble before -  leaving the EU. But there cannot be many rich - or even very rich - Grandads that would blow 9 million on a scheme that had no prospect of a meaningful return. So the unanswered questions are - who really benefits from his intervention? And what’s in it for Blair, Mandelson and Rudd?

tags: Brexit, EU, block, stop, populist, yesterday’s hero

 

13-Feb-2017

Monopoly Money

For us mere mortals the idea of handling thousands of millions of pounds - or any other currency - is close to fantasy. And there are plenty of stories of how suddenly becoming rich has just been too much for the lucky recipient to handle.

So it is no surprise that those who do handle money on such a grand scale tend to be regarded as people empowered with superior - almost supernatural - powers. But in reality this is never the case. They are just humans who through birth, skill, hard work or sheer luck have got their hands on wealth. And the successful ones have used that wealth to make even more - often through avoiding unnecessary expenses like taxation.

Take Christine Lagarde; currently in her second five year term as managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). A role that seems to operate outside the constraints placed upon the rest of us. For example Lagarde’s summary of the Greek financial crisis in 2012 was that not enough Greeks had paid their taxes. Now this may be true but coming from someone not paying any taxes on an annual salary of $468,000, plus serious expenses, strikes a sour note.  A situation that supports the charge that the elite are granting themselves exemptions from taxation.

Euro_Banker444But personal gain is not the biggest issue involving the big money players. Rather it is how they are managing the millions, billions and trillions of dollars. euros, et al that flow through governments and central banks. And the biggest potential source of problems here is the European Central Bank (ECB); mainly because it directs the EU’s national banks but also because of the huge amounts involved.

The president of the ECB, Mario Draghi, controls and sets policies involving vast amounts of euros; either directly or via the EU’s interest rates. And for many months the ECB has been buying bonds to the tune of 80,000 million euro per month. But buying them by simply creating more euros - a process that used to involve printing bank notes but is now just updating a number in a computer record.

Obviously for anyone other than a central bank this would be fraud on a grand scale. And for anyone to suggest that this is a policy that is bound to fail eventually would mean that they are dismissed as too dumb to understand such high finance.

But simply this monopoly money is being swapped for bonds (more pretend money) issued mainly by big business or national debts. Finding out how much goes to who is not straight forward. However the Corporate Europe Observatory has worked out that some big beneficiaries are corporations like Daimler, BMW, Volkswagen, Shell, Total, Eni (Italian Oil), Repsol, Siemens, Thales and even Ryanair.

Now even if everything in this quantitative easing programme is legal and transparent its only function is to shore-up struggling Eurozone economies with cheap money. And the scale of the money printing is frightening. If we bring the amounts back to  human scale you can see the problem. With roughly 500 million people in Europe the ECB are creating some 160 euro per person per month. Not a lot it seems - but the total is mounting steadily and that is on top of the vast amounts of debt that the EU already has.

But with such vast sums being produced out of thin air and moved across multiple jurisdictions the opportunities for the odd million or two to vanish are all too real ..

tags: Europe, debt, common, market, ECB, IMF

 

31-Jan-2017

Website of the Day

GuyVerhofstadt630

tags: Guy Verhofstadt, out of date, Eurocrat, Libdem, make us pay, Brexit

 

24-Jan-2017

Judge For Yourself

So exactly seven months on from our vote to leave the European Union we now have a decision on who needs to be consulted before we can resign. If progress by the UK government continues at this pace the EU negotiation window of two years maximum will close before any British plans are even submitted.

Jean_Ex-Generalisimo2But those hoping to remain in the EU seem to have lost sight of how the EU plans to change over the next few years. Britain would not be able to stay on in the EU on its 1990 terms - even if leaving was reversed or delayed for decades. All those special terms that the UK enjoyed in the past will not be an option in the future.

The master plan to create a European super state unifying and integrating all its countries economically, politically and socially is the only vision of the future that politicians in Brussels will allow.

The pound would have to go, along with imperial measurements and an independent military. While the much despised British rebate is already being lined up for removal along with our veto powers over key policy areas. Obviously the free movement of people would be strictly enforced, despite UK objections, since it is one of the articles of EU faith that cannot be challenged.

So ignoring the majority and forcing Britain to remain a member would not provide a safe, stable or familiar future within the EU. Rather it would commit the country to a series of destructive changes at colossal expense. At the same time our reduced voting capacity would mean that even fewer British plans would gain support in Brussels. And with poorer member states easily outnumbering the net-contributors, like the UK, we would have to put up with more laws benefiting them while their escalating costs would get passed onto us. Not a bright future - even if the grand EU design actually worked.

So being ruled by a rather dubious bunch of British politicians may not be much to cheer about - but it’s a lot better than the alternative ...

tags: Brexit, EU, progress, promises

 

22-Jan-2017

Another Song Victim?

Hyper-active dancer Bruno Tonioli, local girl Sophie Ellis-Bextor and vocal coach CeCe Sammy will appear at the Hammersmith Apollo next Friday as the judging panel for the UK’s entry in the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest.

EuroVis2017Looking back over recent contests it is clear that it’s neither the singer nor the song that determines who gets the most votes in the final. A statement that is clearly supported by the way in which Australia was robbed of victory by the unoriginal and politically-themed song from Ukraine in 2016.

This year both Russia and Australia are back in the lead in the betting. But considering the UK’s political position within Europe the chances of any British song - no matter how good - getting in the top half of the results are next to zero. Even Lily Allen singing about the emotional torment of having to leave the EU against her will would struggle ...

But this year the result of a song contest seems just too trivial to justify serious consideration when compared to all the other national and international issues we are facing.

tags: song, contest, BBC, UK, Eurovision, political, divisive

 

18-Jan-2017

A Little More Action

BreakOutEUchains2cThe combination of the Prime Minister’s speech yesterday and the Supreme Court’s promise today that they will issue a judgement next Tuesday has injected some much needed action into the Brexit soap opera. A drama that was in danger of boring its audience to distraction.

However, despite this welcome news, we are still awaiting the issue of that national resignation letter. And we are, of course, still bankrolling lavish, and unaudited, spending by eurocrats on their pet projects - and supporting their  comfortable life styles. The hope is that the PM, with the backing of parliament, will actually meet her own target of March for the resignation. But even so millions of our national taxes are still going to be siphoned off until 2019; as things stand.

So despite this week’s developments the British position is much the same as it was back in September and the advice then to opt for the simplest terms, agreed as quickly as possible, still applies. Let’s hope that Whitehall gets its act together and takes on board the advice that no deal is better than a bad deal ...

tags: Brexit, EU, progress, promises

 

12-Jan-2017

Mind The Gap

You would think that with the government so strongly backing a third railway line from London to Birmingham that a basic national network was already in place. But this is far from the case as one Grandad discovered when trying to book train travel for relatives visiting from overseas.

man6Both Oxford and Cambridge are high on bucket lists for UK visitors. But even though the two cities are only 110km apart on the map there are no direct train links. In fact the recommended route is Oxford to Paddington then Underground to Kings Cross and from there to Cambridge. Two changes and a best journey time of 2hr 29m - if you move quickly between stations in London.

And this is not just one carefully contrived example. Rather it is a typical example of the train travel options available. Getting from Cambridge to York would be much the same - also taking around 2hr 30 and involving a change of train in Peterborough. The next leg from York to Lancaster would mean changing trains in Manchester for another 2hr 30 or so journey. Then heading south to Warwick from Lancaster would involve two trains and an eight minute walk between stations in Birmingham; taking almost four hours to complete due to waiting times.

So success ... well not really. These were the places that are easy to get to by train. Not surprising since they are, after all, county towns with plenty of rail services. For all the other bucket list places, outside of Edinburgh, Glasgow and London, it was not possible to plan a practical rail route. And since the visitors had asked to avoid changes of train it looks like they may have to be persuaded to stop over in Peterborough, Manchester and Birmingham in order to hide the fact that there are no direct services between the cities requested.

But at least there is one bright spot - a promise that the Settle to Carlisle line will be reopen by April; some fourteen months after it was closed by landslips. If so it will be back on the available list by the time the visitors arrive.

tags: train, travel, change, railway, network, gap

 

3-Jan-2017

A Little Less Conversation ..

.. A Little More Action.

WhyAreWeWaiting1It’s back to work and school for many of the un-retired this week. But not before observing the traditional, and very short, season of resolutions and predictions for the year ahead.

As usual the resolutions are to do more good things and fewer bad ones. And the predictions are mainly of impending disasters - natural, financial or political - on a national or world scale.

But we all know that the vast majority of the words spoken or written will never become reality. They follow the truism enacted by so many, especially in politics, that - talk is cheap.

But 2017 really does require much less talk and much more action if the country is to avoid being stuck in some no-mans-land between independence and EU membership. A situation where we are excluded from Europe’s decision making but still have to pay the huge membership fees. And where we cannot enter into new external trade deals but are gaining less and less new business from Europe.

Now the figure of 350 million per week going to Brussels has been dismissed as misleading since it excludes the Thatcher rebate and any money that the EU currently spends back here. But since the referendum last June Brussels has upped our contributions and these could well increase again if the EU votes to scrap the rebate once the voting rules change in April.

However even the most die-hard EU fan has to admit that at least 121 million per week does get kept by Brussels. This means that during the 27 weeks of talking since the referendum have seen some 3,271 million of our tax contributions go permanently down the Brussels drain. Soon these will be followed by another 1,575 million purely because we are waiting for the Government to issue our leaving letter. Clearly those in power need to take on-board that other truism - time is money - and get things moving; fast. If not then more and more of the country may well be singing -

Oh, why are we waiting; Oh why, why, why?

tags: waiting, Brexit, no news, more costs, less opportunities

 

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Earlier postings ...

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FOOTNOTES

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