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

Let’s apply the free markert to farming

I must stress that there was farming in the UK well before the creation of the EU.

There have been long-established trading relations all over the world particularly within the commonwealth . It sounds blistering obvious, but it is worth iterating this point as some articles published sound as though we would be left without food altogether.

Many companies here in the UK go to great lengths to state their food is made here in the UK , I can not imagine that this will go away anytime soon, perhaps some canny businesses will continue to leverage this one further.

The loss of farming subsidies and price controls understandably would be a worry to many farmers especially when their existence can be so precarious , but with ingenious thinking and  some changes in regulation these are problems that can be solved.

What would farmers do apart from farm….?

Some of the land could be moved over to housing as much as NIMBYs protest about excessive house building over the UK , such a small percentage of the country is built on “The urban landscape accounts for 10.6% of England, 1.9% of Scotland, 3.6% of Northern Ireland and 4.1% of Wales.” ( .First on the build list should be farms adjacent to existing housing projects, second on the build list would be the plots of land that were kept profitable due to subsidies or price controls these were most like to have been marginal in the first instance.

The government could also push to remove all the unnecessary administration and regulations that are currently coming from the EU. This would free up farmers to do what they do best which is farm and seeks new markets for goods or to use the land in a new and novel ways.

It is possible to remove all farming subsidies and produce more food at less expense to the taxpayer , who in fact get stung twice one through their taxes and the second through higher food prices. A real world example of this NZ where all farming subsides were removed 34 years year ago ,if anything it seems to have reinvigorated their farming industry ( , if an economy the size of New Zealand can perform such a change , there is no reason why the UK which is much larger economy could also not survive with out farming support

What about making all the food that we need here in the UK ? I don’t want to get into the meat (pun intended) of comparative advantage you can look that up yourself , but needless to say it makes no sense trying to make watermelon here in the UK considering our climate the amount of energy required would not be a good use of scarce resources. It makes much better sense for us to produce where we have an advantage such as making potatoes/financial services/design and engineering etc and trade them for watermelons from a countries where they make them with relative ease .

This sort of trade also allows developing nations to trade their way to prosperity as opposed to waiting for grants from first world nations . Which will come with inevitable strings attached. Trade is much simpler and bottom up way of helping individuals and nations out of poverty. As opposed to the top down method which is fought with money leaking a way to pay bureaucrats with very little making its way to the those most need it. We could do away with departments such DFID and have that money spent here at home or left with the taxpayer.

If we were to be true to our Cobden (google corn laws for more on this much forgotten British free marketeer) core ,then we would also not worry about who makes our food the UK would have the ability to trade outside of the customs union with everyone. The whole world would be able to trade food with us in return for all the goods and services where specialise . As many of the countries outside of the EU would be able to send us food more cheaply (not in all cases I conceded as they may not have scale but that could happen over time as the developing world would accumulate capital from the goods they have sold to us) .

A post Brexit Britain (or just Britain returning to nation-state which is self-governing like most other countries in the world) we need to this as an opportunity to allow all areas of the economy to flourish and experiment (one of the reasons not to integrate all EU law into UK law IMHO) with new ideas and solutions you never know what we may just come up with.

First published on

Bad Brexit pushes out good Brexit

This speech was delivered at the People’s Charter Brexit “splinter protest” on Saturday 21st January. Video follows below.

Check against delivery.

Hello. I am Simon Gibbs. I am a libertarian and I voted leave.
Since part of what I do is representing the interests of other libertarians, I want to mention that not all libertarians voted leave.

Some felt that leaving now would cause chaos and it was better to wait.

Some felt a government that we hate is better for us than one we love.

Most of us, including myself, have very little sympathy for the notion of borders.

Others felt that Brexit, justified on the basis of that EU immigration is a bad thing, would uncork the bottle on pent up racism and cultural resentments.

Some of those arguments have merit and are important.

What is of primary importance is that the will of the people is enacted. I don’t always like democracy but democracy is our system and a vote has been taken.


There will be another vote. The biggest danger that I sense to the referendum result is that the people will change their minds.

This movement needs to keep itself strong. It needs to “work together”, yes. Kum by ah and all that.


To win again The movement also needs to be seen to be decent and good.

Theresa May’s red line on control of immigration is not helping. It associates Brexit with immigration. It makes her and us seem mean.

It is as if she believes immigration control to be the biggest demand the public has. As if she believes the media narrative that we are all mean nasty racist scum.


Immigration control is not the biggest demand the public has.

If you look at actual polls you see that immigration is the second most important consideration after democracy.

Across the population it is the primary concern of less than one fifth of the population. At least one quarter of us said, quite plainly, that democracy was more important than immigration.

Domestic control of domestic affairs is this movements key demand.

I fear that May’s Brexit will leave us subordinate to some set of obscure trade rules and will make being mean to foreigners a priority instead.

Well not in my name!

How we are portrayed and how we are discussed does not reflect who we are. First we must be clear in our minds hat if we get democracy, then all else can follow and we must be united on that key priority.

Second we must be clear when we speak to others and when others speak about us to ensure the truth about us is visible to the public outside our movement. To the people who also have a right to be represented in the forthcoming vote.

We are not mean, stupid or evil. We are good decent people focused on the key ethical and political principles and on the big picture.

We need to stand up, speak clearly, and demand that we are treated fairly.

Video begins at 4m 20s

Jonathan Isaby leaves TPA to lead up BrexitCentral

Many of you will know and love the work of the Tax Payers Alliance. Today they have announced they are to be loosing their head Jonathon Isaby who will work at a new Matthew Elliot project titled BrexitCentral.

For the TPA, Andrew Allum writes:

Jonathan leaves the TPA in an extremely strong position. Under his watch, those who spend the money earned by hard-pressed families now must ask themselves “what would the TaxPayers’ Alliance think?” before they sign off any spending decision. I would like to thank Jonathan for his leadership and successful campaigning while with the TPA

For their part Brexit Central are of course happy and are looking forward to getting going:

As Theresa May’s government sets about implementing the historic verdict of the British people at June’s referendum, BrexitCentral will be essential reading for all wanting to follow the twists and turns of the UK’s departure from the European Union. The website, to be launched in September, will be a one-stop shop for news, analysis, comment and insight about the single biggest issue dominating the new Prime Minister’s in-tray, backed up by a vibrant social media presence and a daily e-bulletin.

Pound’s Fate Was Inevitable

Far from Brexit causing the termination of the UK economy the changes in the value of the pound were inevitable and do not represent a disaster, says the Guardian:

Sterling had to fall, regardless of the EU referendum – with such a big trade gap, it was inevitable

Brexit or no Brexit, it has been clear for months that the only way for the pound was down. When a country is running a balance of payments deficit unsurpassed in peacetime history, it is hard to make a compelling case for its currency going up.

In truth, all the referendum vote on 23 June has done is to bring forward the fall in sterling and squeeze it into a shorter period.

LATER: Thia was not the narrative one might expect to read there, but Sam Bowman offers an explanation.

Guardian dissing minimum wage?

The Guardian writes

The introduction of the national living wage was already causing fruit and vegetable producers, who do not receive EU subsidies, to move to lower cost countries, 

I do not need to check the Guardian’s position on the minimum wage. It is for it. In fact Polly Toynbee once went so far as to suggest a good argument for minimum wage was to deal with problems associated with immigration. 

Why then is the Guardian letting this negative opinion, attributed to salad grower Chris Mack, through it’s net? Because the rest of the article is Brexit scaremongering:

Mack said: “If there is a further issue around the availability of labour, moving your fields overseas will be almost be the only option.”

This is, of course, as powerful an argument for abolishing the minimum wage as it is for cancelling Brexit.  The silly Guardian have apparently missed Ashcroft polling making immigration the top Brexit issue for a tiny 17% of the population. Cheap salad is exactly the kind of issue likely to be on the mind of the 7% who ranked it last.

If you want some more reasons to abolish the minimum wage Sam Bowman brought  a whole collection with him in one of our videos.

Article 50 Protest to Welcome May

Often sound lefty-libertarians “Spiked” are organising a protest calling on Theresa May to invoke Article 50. Tom Slater, campaign convenor,said “Warm words, and assurances that ‘Brexit means Brexit’, won’t wash.”

My own view is that Article 50 need not be triggered especially quickly, as long as it is triggered – but it may be helpful to keep the pressure up.

For those of you needing a more nuanced way to express your opinion, I have rustled up a printable poster – I may not be able to get there but this is simple graphic design.

The protest is at 6pm – when Cameron indicated that May is due to have been installed – outside her new home in Downing Street.



While trade and free movement are obviously topical, I added the other two just for May.

South Park fans might also be interested in making use of this:



Click for the full size versions.