Aren’t Right Wing People Just A Bunch Of Racists?

There was a particularly interesting documentary on Radio 4 this week (link below) about why so few ethnic minority voters are happy to vote Tory called ‘Operation Black Vote’. According to this program, in the last general election the Conservatives received a smaller portion of the ethnic minority vote than Donald Trump did during the 2016 presidential election.

There were some similarly alarming facts all the way through the program:

  • Once an area becomes more then 30% non-white. It becomes essentially impossible for the Tories to win that seat.
  • 70%-80% of the non-white vote goes to the Labour party
  • Being perceived as ‘anti-immigrant’ has a massive knock on effect on the amount of young voters a party attracts.

Although the program was focused on the Conservative party, and I do not support the Conservatives. Being the insufferable optimist that I am,I thought that there were some positive things to take away from this insightful documentary.

We are often left to believe (by those on the left and right) that a pro individual freedom and pro capitalist message simply does not wash with ethnic minorities. One of the things that this short doc made clear is that this simply is not true.

Almost by definition immigrants and the children of immigrants are often eager to improve their lot in life. For many of the interviewees, the Conservative message mattered very little. What mattered more was the perception of the Conservative party. The legacy of Enoch Powell, ‘the cricket test’ and opposition to migration all contribute to make the Tory brand toxic for many minority voters.

But more importantly the idea that certain ‘kinds’ of people are just not receptive to free market ideas is one that I think should be challenged.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/play/m0000nn3

Why I’m Backing the West Lynn Ferry Crowdfunder

The appeal reads:

The historic West Lynn ferry is in danger. The present owner cannot run it for another winter and needs to sell the business or shut down and sell his boats. If that happens we may not be able to start a new ferry for years, if ever.

I know the words well because I was involved with writing them. I met Ben Ellis the prospective buyer of West Lynn Ferry, a going concern, in the King William pub in Terrington and helped him finish off his page on crowdfunder.co.uk, his selected platform.

The ferry is an established commuter route into from rural West Lynn into Kings Lynn and is a helpful option for all manner of errands, such as visiting the library or shopping in town. Taking the ferry comes with free parking and cuts out all of the traffic on the long route round the other way. But the owner has joint issues and wants to finance a lifestyle change and take on less demanding work.

After 17 years invested in the ferry, which probably did not help his joints, he will be rightly determined to sell up or asset strip the business. He has been trying to sell the business for 18 months and although this summer is lovely, he is not looking forward to yet another winter of running services every 20 minutes. The ferry needs a particular set of skills to run and Ben Ellis is the only buyer to have come forward, but Ben does not yet have all of the £65,000 price tag.

Ben has various offers of finance, all of them unreliable and all of them with strings attached. He can’t proceed to buy the ferry if he doesn’t know he can make it work. On top of landing those prospective investors, his challenge is doing it without crippling the business with debt. Asking for gifts from his community – a helping hand in this otherwise private endeavour – makes sense.

Of course, there is a chance that the money will be handed over and the ferry will still end up closing. Plenty can still go wrong. Yet for the people in Terrington, Clenchwarton and West Lynn sharing a little of that risk with Ben has a better chance of keeping their ferry running.

For the wider community, and in particular for libertarians and conservatives, it is a chance to demonstrate that we are committed to practising what we preach. It does not matter that we come from London and have all the ferries and tunnels we need for ourselves. If we believe that public services can be provided by private enterprises then we have a responsibility to lead by example and support them when they falter.

You won’t find my donation on crowdfunder. He had my money before his page existed, but it is already very late. We have here a real example of the world working they way we want it to. The time to step up and get involved is past due.

How we can Make 2018 a Libertarian Year

In 2016, the Overton window of British politics became unjammed. The window is now free to move. How can libertarians best capitalise on the new opportunities presented? Where are we now, who and what are we, and what are these opportunities? What are the threats?

I don’t presume to say who is and is not a libertarian, if that is even a useful question. It is easy to get diverted by attempts to draw a precise boundary around a definition rather than identifying what clearly lies within the boundary. You could say we are people who believe in the Non-Aggression Principle or those holding a general presumption in favour of individual freedom. Perhaps we are followers of Hayek, Rand or whoever. In contrast with socialism and communism, libertarianism is not dogmatic: there’s no defined set of policies such as ‘total nationalisation’ or ‘abolish private property’. Instead, it is more like conservatism: a set of habits of mind and attitudes about policy, rather than a set of policies themselves.

It is therefore perfectly possible for libertarians passionately and sincerely to disagree about important policy matters (e.g., Brexit, anti-trust) as well as more fundamental philosophical questions (e.g., natural rights, which were controversial even as early as Benjamin Tucker and Max Stirner). In the long term, there are threats to one of the primary units of analysis in libertarian thought: the autonomous, law-abiding individual.

There is no reason to suppose, a priori, that the rule of law will continue to exist. The first steps towards privatising quasi-legislative power in favour of machines were made in the 1990s in relation to copyright enforcement technologies. If you can implement a restriction on someone’s behaviour via software, anticircumvention laws will protect the behaviour of your software against their hacking. Even if your software’s behaviour violates their most fundamental rights such as freedom of speech. It is not hard to imagine an unregulatable world of software, robots, and drones which enforce the will of their owners, or their hackers, in a broad range of public and private areas of life. The prospects that the owners will all have libertarian views are slim.

Deeper than the attack on law, our concept of what is a human individual and our confidence that we have free will are both coming under more sustained scrutiny due to advances in medical science and philosophy. Advancing the notion that we lack free will in some important sense is the project of John Brockman, an influential literary agent who has drawn to himself many famous scientist authors, or authors whom he has made famous, and many authors of whom libertarians would tend to approve.

The best example of libertarian democratic success today is Senator David Leyonhjelm, recently re-elected a libertarian to the Australian federal parliament, where he has shared the balance of power in the upper house with various other minor parties. This necessarily entails compromise: he has the ability in limited cases to trade off his support for one measure against another. There is no room in such calculations for purism; all that is available is some of what libertarians want, or none of it. Not all of it.

It is my belief that it is worthwhile focusing both on theoretical goals and practical goals. We should know where we’d like to go, and the direction in which we should take our next step towards that destination. How we got where we are should matter less to us than that we are on the same journey.

Free Speech In The Age Of The Internet

Not too long ago, the internet used to be a very free space. It seemed out of reach from governments, and was almost entirely unregulated. Users felt free to publish almost anything they liked, and they could do so anonymously. The internet, therefore, was a hope for everyone with non-mainstream opinions that their voices could finally break through the protected consensus of the mainstream.

This hope was certainly justified. The internet still is very much a force for good. But like all forces for good, the government tends to hate them. And so Leviathan has been eager to jump on it. The state is trying to make the internet a force for its own good. The progress made in that endeavor during the last decade is very worrying.

Edward Snowden, who worked for the NSA, was the first to blow the whistle. His revelations revealed that western governments had very advanced programs to use the internet to control society. Before Snowden, few people had thought about the consequences that most of what we do these days leaves some traces on the internet. I certainly was not worried about it. But Snowden made the public aware that, by hovering up all these information, the government could potentially know about almost everything we are up to in our lives.

This is not just a problem for really bad guys, like terrorists. The secrecy of private lives has been an effective tool against a lot of government tyranny. Whenever the official rules of the state became too silly, a lot of people just secretly stopped following them. The state essentially needed to be good enough, so that most people followed the rules out of conviction. The prospect of the state being able to take away this kind of effective protest is truly frightening. For the first time, Snowden revealed that the internet did not necessarily have to be a force for good. If we are not careful, it could turn out as a tool for real enslavement.

Nevertheless, the fact that everyone can now publish their opinions cheaply, and on multiple platforms, remains extremely powerful. After all, in many western countries there are still laws in place which, at least formally, guarantee a certain amount of free speech. These laws date back to times, when it was significantly more complicated and costly to make one’s voice heard. The establishment therefore usually did not see free speech as too much of a threat.

In fact allowing people to express their opinions, while at the same time not giving them a platform, can be an effective tool for controlling opposition. The moment the government locks up dissidents, they can claim to be a victim of an oppressive regime. This tends to draw support to them. At the same time, leaving someone alone without platforming him, but giving him hope that his voice might be heard in the future, gives that person an incentive to not go too far with his opposition. As long as he believes he can make his voice heard in the future, he might still play along with the system, even though the system is very much rigged against him.

But with the internet, people now have a very real chance of finding an audience. The internet has indeed shown to be the game changer that it was promised to be at the beginning. Since the people in power often believe their own propaganda, they have been very late to realize, how much they have been loosing control over the narrative of debates.

The big wakeup call came with Brexit and the election of Trump. Both events were completely unexpected to the established forces. They were so hit by surprise that it took them a while to realize why voters had turned against them. A lot of people simply do not get their information from officially briefed sources anymore.

Since the establishment had this epiphany, we have seen frantic attempts to win back control. There has been an increase in legal speech prohibitions in almost every western country, with the possible exception of the US. Only last week we saw Scottish YouTuber Markus Meechan, who goes under the name Count Dankula, being convicted in a court of law for hate speech. His crime was to make a joke for his girlfriend, by teaching her pug to perform a Nazi salute to the words “gas the jews”. Meechan is not actually a Nazi. Far from it, he explains at the beginning of the video that he thinks Nazis are the most offensive thing he could imagine. The goal was not to spread hatred, but to teach his girlfriend wrong, who claimed that her pug could not possible do anything that is not cute.

None of that of cause matters. Free speech is meaningless if it is not allowed to offend people. Unless someone is issuing a concrete and believable thread, or is involved in planning a violent crime, everyone should be free to say whatever he or she likes. A Precedence like the Meehan case clearly shows that the government is trying to clamp down on free speech.

Last year, we saw the UK government even proposing punishments of up to 15 years in prison for people who merely watch “extremist” content online. This is allegedly targeted at supporters of terrorist groups. However, all it takes is a precedent from a judge to extend this law to cover all kinds of opposition to the government. True opposition can easily be portrayed as extremist. But if merely watching content online becomes a crime, punishable by multiple years in prison, we are truly in deep tyranny territory.

The bigger strategy to get back in control of the narrative, however, does not seem to be outright speech prohibitions. Especially in the US, these would face some serious legal hurdles. Instead, the strategy seems to be to somehow go back to the good old days of being able to deny someone a platform.

After the Trump election, a narrative has been spun to make alternative news sources look like tools for evil forces. The phrase ‘fake news’ was introduced to differentiate between legitimate, meaning establishment, information, and uncontrolled news sources. Introducing the label ‘fake news’ would be little more than amusing if it had stopped there. But unfortunately, we are seeing an outright criminalization of everything that is not approved media content.

This would usually look like a cause doomed to fail, giving how easy it is to publish anything on the internet. But unfortunately, the way the online distribution of information appears to work at the moment does give the government a chance of succeeding. While it is true that everyone can publish anything easily on the internet, that is not to say that it is easy to find an audience.

Social media has a huge effect on which content people consume. What does and does not appear in the news feed of Facebook and Twitter, or in the search results of Google and YouTube, very much influences opinions. And these few companies very much control a huge amount of the distribution, and advertisement of alternative media.

From a libertarian perspective this could sound like good news. If distribution is in the hands of private companies, then there is little to worry about, right? Private companies, for the most part, do not have political agendas. They just want to make a profit. That means, they have an economic incentive to make as many customers happy as possible.

Unfortunately, this is only true in a free market system. What we have today, however, is crony capitalism. In today’s system, whenever a company reaches a certain size, or whenever a company crosses political interests, a collusion between the government and that company can be observed. After all, the government can make business very difficult for pretty much anyone. It is therefore difficult to say no to the mob.

How do we know that this is happening? Well, first of all, it is naïve to believe that the state would simply stand bank when one of its core interests is threatened. Many people have long suspected that the reason google is the best search engine is because they get help from the intelligence community in the US.

But we don’t even need to go into conspiracy theories. The collusion is happening very overtly. Governments simply have declared the media platforms to be responsible for the content that its users post. As a result, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, who have a quasi monopoly, have started to censorship user content. And they are not just censoring posts that are against some laws. They are keenly censoring anything that even remotely might get them any negative criticism from the establishment, just in case.

There clearly is no will to resist government influence. These companies are more than happy to go along with an established agenda. On the other hand, the pressure they are put under by the government is certainly huge. Campaigns to demonize content are being lounged very aggressively. Anyone who is on the wrong side of the news, is attacked as being an illegitimate actor.

The most prominent villain has been made out to be Russia, who is accused of “interfering” in elections by simply talking to people on social media. I wrote about this here. But there are other scapegoats. The latest scandal is the use of Facebook data by the company Cambridge Analytics. As already in the Russian scandal, there is a lot of noise, but it is actually not so easy to find out what the exact accusations are. I might be wrong, but as far as I can tell, Cambridge Analytics is not actually accused of breaking the law. Instead, the company is accused of unethically collecting user information on Facebook, by burying the agreement to share these information in the terms and conditions of its apps. And we all know that no one reads those. It then used these information to provide a superior advertisement service.

If this is true, than it is not clear what the huge scandal is about. Sure, Cambridge Analytics might have got some information about users that the users were not really happy to share. While that would not be very good, the harm done in this case does not seem to be huge. After all the company did not use these information to steal or harm users in any other way. It simply used it for tailor made advertisement.

The fact that Facebook excessively collects its user’s data, and uses it to influence people on the network, has been well know for a long time now. Many users feel uncomfortable about it. I know a number of people who have left the platform for that reason. I myself have a ‘strictly no private stuff’ policy when it comes to using Facebook. As a consequence, user numbers are declining, and the average time spend on Facebook is down 24%. That is huge. If the Cambridge Analytics scandal will turn the psychology of users against using Facebook even more, than that is certainly a net positive as far as I am concerned.

Still, one has to ask why this particular case sparks so much outrage. One cannot help but get the impression that the real “crime” of Cambridge Analytics was to work for the wrong team in the last US election. What if they had worked for the Clinton campaign, or to promote an officially accepted cause, like climate change? I am willing to bet anything that in that case, we would have never heard much about it. And if we did, the media would have presented Cambridge Analytics in a very different, much more positive, light.

In fact, we don’t really have to wonder about this. As a number of commentators have pointed out, Obama employed very similar advertisement tactics in the 2012 election. This was not a big scandal at all. No one seemed to have be bothered by it. And the difference between the two cases is clear – advertising the election of Obama is officially approved, while advertising Trump is not.

All of this makes it increasingly obvious that the domination of distributing content online by a very few big players is a real problem. It gives governments a handle on attempting to control the narrative. Making distributers of information responsible for the media content on their networks is a quite clever stroke of genius. That way, we will likely overshoot on the censorship side, without the government having to formally make it look like they are clamping down on freedom of speech. But this strategy would not be so easily possible if it wasn’t for the fact that we have quasi social media monopolies.

What can be done about it? I have heard a lot of people suggesting that we need to get the government involved in controlling these monopolistic platforms. This would apparently guarantee more fairness. At the very least there should be strict regulations.

Unsurprisingly, this seems like a really bad idea to me. I really do believe that the government is the real villain in all of this. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were not too bother censoring information before the state threatened them, and made a lot of noise about it. Putting the state officially in charge of these platform would only make things a lot worse.

It seems that the only possible answer to this problem is more consumer responsibility. Users need to demand less interference, and move to alternative platforms if possible. This is certainly easier said than done. The reason why there are so few players in this field is, because one of the major benefits of big platforms is a network effect. As consumers, we want to have as easy as possible access to all information. More importantly, content providers want to use platforms on which they can reach a maximum amount of people. If, however, all information are in the same place, we are necessarily talking about a quasi monopoly.

So the only solution seems to be to make a compromise to reduce one’s benefits of a network effect in exchange for having fewer interferences. But this could turn out to be a too big compromise for many people to make. Still, with the degree of interference that we are seeing at the moment, it seems likely that a large enough number of people will eventually make that compromise and move to alternative platforms.

In fact, this is what we are seeing already in the last few months. As mentioned, user time on Facebook is down 24%. Market monopolies don’t tend to last forever. Very few of the biggest major companies from a century ago are still around today. I shell be very surprised if Facebook will still be the dominant platform 20 years from now. At some point users will have enough of it. If nothing else, Facebook will at some point become old and not hip anymore. All the cool kids will be on the new popular platform X.

I witnessed the speed with which such change in psychology can happen myself when I was still living in Germany. Before there was Facebook, another social network called StudiVZ was very popular there. Within a very short time, it was so popular that one had to be on it in order to maintain a normal social life. Then, suddenly, people liked Facebook more and an exodus from StudiVZ began. Within a year, the network went from being so popular that no one could afford not to be on it, to being completely dead. That is how quickly it can go. Something similar happened of course to myspace.

Meaning, if there is any major shift in psychology against Facebook, the social network could very well go from having a quasi monopoly to being out of business very quickly. This seems inconceivable to most people now, and I am not predicting this to happen within the next year. But it seems almost certain to me that social media platforms will be subject to fashions. And that means that at some point in the future the network effect will work against Facebook.

In free markets, consumers have powers and responsibilities. Simply complaining about the policies of a company, without being willing to take action and move to the competition, is usually not very effective. On markets, everyone acts according to incentives. And the big companies have no incentive to resist the influence of governments. An institution that has a monopoly on physical force has the ability to make offers that no one can refuse. We therefore need to educating internet users about their responsibilities as consumers in order to change the psychology against companies that have become too powerful. I am not saying it is easy, but it is the only way, and it can clearly be done.

The Devil wears no-platform soles

This week the now-routine disruption of speaker meetings claimed another victim. A discussion between Yaron Brook and Carl Benjamin at Kings College London was shut down by an incursion by masked thugs. What are the practical limits and effects of these kinds of tactics, and what is to be done about them?

The stakes are high: in Western Anglophone polities, the socially acceptable limits of speech are much narrower than what is permitted by law even before ideologically-motivated activists try to stop anyone from speaking: the raised eyebrow, curled lip and withdrawn dinner-party invitation have a very firm regulatory effect on most individuals. The means by which Salonfähig opinion is policed are outside the scope of this article and almost exclusively legal. What is new is an organised small group of radicals attempting their own private policing in flagrant violation of the law.

If nothing is done about no-platforming, fake bomb threats against speaker meetings, falsely activated fire alarms and so on, then a trivially small group of people will be able to prevent the free interchange of ideas face-to-face in public. An analogous battle takes place routinely against uncensored discussion platforms on the Internet.

Those waving the Antifa banners don’t do it to everyone. They are perfectly strategic about their targets, and in the recent incident, the target was Carl Benjamin, a mild-mannered centre-left Youtube personality who happens to be effective in countering a narrative they want to propagate. More usually, the targets are the centre-right or the far-right; the Anglophone centre-right is orders of magnitude more popular, decent and entertaining than the far right and is proportionately more likely to be targeted. Left unchecked, all the off-message figures, both of centre-left and centre-right, all those people trying out NEW ideas that are threatening to someone will be driven from the public stage.

It is useful to understand the broader context of the Antifa tactics against public meetings. See these three articles (which come with something of a health warning themselves):

So, the Antifa types do it because it is fun, because it’s hardcore, because it works, because it is intellectually low-effort, and so on. Critically, it drives up the costs of their opponents.

The most important thing about counter-measures is to choose those which are anti-escalation. If stopping Antifa thuggery turns society into a police state, or increases political polarisation and tension, that is likely to be severe net negative. Note that the tactic mentioned in “Days of Rage”, of retaliating in kind by turning up at Leftist meetings and disrupting them, is itself illegal in the UK under the Public Meeting Act 1908.

In the Kings College case this week, there were a few notable features: the college and/or student authorities failed to provide adequate security, imposed odd last-minute restrictions and changes, and tried to ban filming. One has to ask (and someone should formally ask), whether filming was banned in order to assist the incursion. Additionally, colleges do not want to have their security staff actually hit students, as that is bad PR. They must not be permitted to charge a premium for security services they tacitly don’t want to provide.

What is to be done?

  • Ensure the Public Meeting Act 1908 always goes enforced.
  • Ensure that when the law is breached, a complaint is made to the police, absolutely unconditionally.
  • Compile quantative datasets of no-platform incidents.
  • Ensure the law is enforced consistently.

Video: What is the Libertarian Movement For?

There a few people in the world of libertarianism that require as little an introduction as Brian Micklethwait. As somebody who has been involved in promoting the cause of liberty for a rather long time there is no wonder that when he speaks, people listen.

Brian began his talk with a short exhibition of different books written by libertarians. Including Tom G Parker, Innes Bowen, Alex Singleton and Dominic Frisby. This is one of the great things about listening to Brian, he is an enthusiastic promoter of not just his own ideas but of the British libertarian community. An idea that we would do well to adopt if we are to move forward.

After this impromptu book review, Brian began his talk with the assertion that the libertarian movement is alright. A surprising and welcome vote of confidence given the small number of libertarians in the UK.

When did the libertarian movement begin?

The first point Brian made was that libertarianism in Britain has deep roots. All the way back to the seventeenth century in fact. His reasoning for this is that although many later thinkers of the Enlightenment eschewed the levellers as somewhat embarrassing zealots their ideas this was a mistake. There are many reasons for this. The first being that the questions that people in the seventeenth century were trying to answer were profoundly different to the sorts of questions we are asking now. Whereas in modern Britain we are trying to figure out how much power should the state have, the levellers were preoccupied with the conundrum of ‘who should the state be comprised of’. This profound difference along with the role religion played in that era make it seem distant and incomprehensible but it is not.

Brian went on to say that the ideas of the Levellers came to fruition during the Industrial Revolution. The concept that one has property, and It can be used as the individual sees fit was not invented by the industrialists of the nineteenth century, they inherited an already old and noble tradition.

History aside, Brian makes an important point here.  Libertarianism is an ideological tradition that stretches far back and has greatly improved society. He brings us up to the present day by saying that somewhere in the early 1960s Marxists stopped believing in progress. Instead, they opted for environmentalism and anti-consumerism.  Libertarians are still arguing the case for progress hundreds of years after the smoke began to rise out of Brian’s factories.

How to do libertarianism

Brian’s second point is that in order to do libertarianism well we must avoid the pitfall of ‘we must’. In order to make the movement progress, we should understand that our morals are not for somebody else to follow, but for ourselves. The focus should be on how we plan to make libertarianism better. These combined acts of devotion to the libertarian cause make more of an impact than simply commanding other activists to do as you wish.

He also makes a point about the shape of British Libertarianism. Brian is a decidedly ‘big tent’ libertarian. Willing to embrace others who do not subscribe to his own particular worldview. Having had the opportunity to speak to Brian on many occasion, I know he is not somebody that shies away from expressing an opinion. Yet there is a certain ethos of ‘stop blabbering and just get on with it’ that is rather refreshing.

Conclusion

Ultimately Brain’s talk ended on an uplifting note. He stressed that people should at least enjoy themselves while doing libertarian things. Although applying yourself is important, ploughing all of your life savings into founding a radical anarcho-capitalist magazine and then complaining endlessly when it goes bust after three issues is not going to help the cause of other libertarians. Brian makes the important distinction between bread and babies; bread, when sliced into smaller parts, is still valuable. Whereas babies that are sliced into small chunks are not so valuable…

Essentially make sure that your long-term goals are divisible and achievable by small individual acts. Rather than investing your time and energy on a once in a lifetime splurge. And you might as well have fun while you are doing it!

Beware a botched border

A botched border will be bad for all .

It’s the EU that wants the wall not us – and I wish that our politicians pointed this out more often. The UK and Ireland governments have made great strides in trying to reach a settlement for Northern Ireland and this could unravel  if the  EU are not pragmatic in their approach to the Northern Ireland.

In some recent coverage on the radio along the Northern Irish border there was lots of talk of not wanting the return of the “watchtowers” and the “troops” along the border as we had during “The Troubles” between 1968-1998.

And what irks me about this is two-fold – firstly the UK voting to leave the EU  does not mean we have to put up a military presence along the NI border. The Troubles are long  over and many of the reasons for having the military border have gone.

The second reason and the most important of the two – if the EU insists on a hard border it will not have been imposed by the British, but by the EU. There is not a lot of support for this anywhere in Ireland and the UK government should continue allow Irish citizens to pass freely into the UK,  as they have been able to do so.

Imagine  a scenario where the UK keeps the border much as it is now  – open. And the EU build a customs border on their side. It would not be the UK causing security and customs delays. Instead it will be the EU forcing a border on the Irish mainland. Irish haulers and government would then have to lobby/petition at an EU level to remove the log jam of goods crossing into UK and back again. In this situation the UK position at an EU level would be weaker and we would have to allow the Irish to do our bidding.

The EU fears by keeping an open border between themselves and the UK , that goods from let’s say, America,  could creep into the EU. The UK could simply mandate that all products be labelled as made in the USA like we do already , and then simply let the consumer choose. If they want beer made in Germany with a Texan steak who are we to get in their way ? If free trade is good across the EU then why is it any worse if  we just extend that boundary to include the globe ?

This logic reveals the EU for what it really is, an intra-nation free trade area with a common tariff  border to the rest of the world. As opposed to an international free trade area .

The British and Irish governments have long had a common travel area (CTA) which allows for easy movement of people dating back to 1925 – well before the creation of the EU. Therefore is no reason why an agreement could not be reached on goods crossing the border now.  Electronic customs solutions for goods already exist,  adopting blockchain technology could be used to ensure that there is an accurate record of what has crossed the border. There is no point in re-inventing the wheel for customs clearances , we should adopt technology in lieu of border bureaucrats.

There is nothing that stops the EU making an exception in this case . Such exceptions are already in place along border between Norway and Sweden, and the border between Germany and Switzerland. Both of these borders have components which could be incorporated into creating a no border situation. Not only would this be helpful for NI, but the UK as a whole. Any solution used by the UK and the EU could always be used a template for other accession countries or be used with other nations who want to trade with the EU bloc but want to avoid political entanglements.

As final thought, replacing my economics hat with a political one, we have to consider the actors and their intentions. The border could well be used by Politicians on both sides as a stalking horse.

The Irish could demand that they will forgo a border as long as NI adheres to the same regulatory standards as the Irish have. This would mean that the EU has a border inside of the UK. I doubt that Westminster would go for that. But for the Irish government this would be a win as it would bring NI closer into their sphere of influence; perhaps even realising their dream of a united Ireland again.

On the UK side the threat to build a wall may well force the Irish government to compel  the EU negotiating team to give concessions such as passporting for financial services or generous access to single market etc.

Perhaps this is the real reason that power is not going back to the NI assembly – maybe an ace up May’s sleeve.

First published on stopflyingtheflag.com.