Brexit looking shaky

So, in case you had missed it, a Brexit deal is now on the table. It introduces a transition phase while the new relationship is being discussed and keeps us in the Customs Union (and much else besides) while that process continues. After 2 years of negotiating an exit it crucially fails to assure Britain that a meaningful exit is possible at all. Since the passage of the Lisbon treaty there has been the Article 50 get out clause, but bizarrely, no such mechanism to leave is contained in the withdrawal agreement.

This is a ludicrous version of Brexit and cannot really be given the name. It has been described as capitulation, giving Britain the status of a vassal state. Regardless of your views on Brexit, or participation in politics generally, the passage of this agreement would be a disaster.

The question must now be asked: what should be done?

If the choice on the table is between Remain and this deal, then the only sensible decision is to Remain. Exit on WTO terms seems to be an incredibly unpopular option at present, and seems even likely to pass the necessary Commons vote. I greatly prefer No Deal to the present option, but the task of campaigning for it seems quixotic. It is perhaps made possible by the fact it is presently the default in law, but there are attempts underway to change that fact also.

There does seem to be some momentum behind the idea of creating an alternative deal, either by making small but important changes to this deal, or invoking the Norway option (EFTA / EEA membership). There are even a few people in the cabinet working on a fix.

The conventional wisdom is that there is no time for a second referendum, but there does seem to be a degree if political will in favour it. Should libertarians aim to begin influencing that process?

Perhaps it is better, since we are ourselves divided, to avoid taking a corporate libertarian view on the matter. This might be reasonable, but a concern is that this means sitting out one of the largest political controversies of our time.

‘Kingsman’: a Brexit explainer?

So much has been written about the rise of ‘Populism’. Many commentators have speculated on its origins while others struggled to work out what it all means and why it has come out. Examples of this populist wave include Trump, the Italian Five Star Movement and the British vote to leave the European Union.

You might not think that Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman:The Secret Service, a gratuitous adventure in violence and comedy, could shed any light on populism. But think again.

Kingsman tells the story of ‘Eggsy’, played by Taron Egerton, a working class lad recruited into an international secret service called Kingsman. Independently funded, these super sleuths represent old-fashioned values of chivalry and are the epitome of the English gentleman. Before you rush off to a safe space, women can become Kingsman too. If you haven’t seen the film and are trying to work out what his type of agent would look like, then imagine Jacob Rees-Mogg with a martini.

The villains of the piece is Valentine played brilliantly, as always, by Samuel L Jackson. Valentine is a tech billionaire worried about global warming. He was donating large sums to research to deal with the problem but frustrated by a lack of results and politicians inability to act, he hits on another plan. Valentine reasons that the things that people do are over-heating the planet. If they can’t be persuaded to change heir behaviour then the only answer is to eliminate the problem, as someone recently said on TV, literally.

Valentine’s conspiracy to wipe out billions of lives to save the planet requires the help of the rich, politicians and Royalty. Not all agree, notably a Swedish Princess who, like others who resist, is kidnapped.

Valentine claims he cherishes humanity. To save it from itself, from its overpopulated ways, it needs to be culled while saving the elites who will create a new world. Meanwhile ordinary people get on with their lives, oblivious to the fact that others are making life and death decisions about them.

The forces stopping this are the gentleman, and gentlewoman, dedicated to being on the side of the people. It is no coincidence that the film also has Royalty objecting to this Malthusian plan.

The villains here are the people who think they know best, who are self-serving and selfish while claiming to be selfless.

Kingsman is an outlandish film. It is a homage to, and resetting of, the Bond genre. But it also reflects the spirit of the age: decisions that affect how people live are made by distant elites. Inevitably people kickback. They want to control their lives and are opting for politicians who are challenging the political consensus. That might not be the best option, as many of these politicians peddle Nativist theories and will undoubtedly be as addicted to power as their predecessors. But there is another alternative: freedom.

 

 

Alex Chatham

Alex has been an occasional blogger for Liberal Vision.

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.