Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Farage Barage Takes Off, But Will He Follow Salmond Down a Sink Hole ?

The #EUref is likely to be held in 2016 after the next general election. Barring that is a Lib-Lab pact, and in fact it is very likely that the Lib Dem vote to collapse due to the electoral system, with the two main parties winning many of their seats if the vote is split by UKIP in England and SNP in Scotland.

In the run up to the #EUref it is then a likely scenario that UKIP and rebel eurosceptic Tory back benchers will be able to achieve two significant political achievements. Firstly reducing immigration by a few different measures, not all anti-EU some being anti Islamic, and secondly forcing a straight IN/OUT vote on the EU.

When compared to #indyref north of the border there are some strange, mirror image political variables and some stark similarities. Nigel Farage risks not only losing the way Alex Salmond did, and he must personally take the blame for the timetable, the pound and the EU, but also the would be fascist leader of England risks political oblivion in a No vote to leaving the EU.

The situation is a skewed mirror image of the Scots Referendum,  because public opinion is actually more favourable in England at least, if not NI and Wales, than it was in outset to the Yes vote North of rivers tweed and Solway.  Also instead of having a long lasting, loyalist union, fighting wars and sharing the hard times with some degree of mutual respect and union of purpose and identity, the No campaign have the opposite. Instead of the case for Scots where Great Britain and the security of the union could be played as a whole pack suit of cards, with the Royals and the Ace of the pound on top, the No campaign who oppose exit to Europe have nothing to cling too, especially not the blue bureaucratic flag with the ring of stars. There is no emotional attachment to Europe from the majority of people in the whole UK.NI, no past to be called up, no warm and fuzzy feeling.

Another virtue for this Farage-through-the-looking-glass versus Scotchlandshire's #indyref is that the Scots had over 95% of the media stacked against them. Both by partisan editorial, the power of vested interests in STV and BBC, and by of course the usual journalistic vigour in going to the attack on weak policies and promises with few facts. Farage has as much as a half of the national newspapers on his side roughly, that is Eurosceptic so far. It has suited their readership and headline sales to portray immigration as a major woe in the UK, especially assylum seekers and Romanian 'vagrants'. The UK media is generally not owned by the same groups as on the continent and has therefore no money men backing the EU. The murdoch empire seem Eurosceptic or happy to sell copy on that basis.

People on the street and those in finance have the same problem in seeing the benefits of Europe as many of those who would like to reform the relationship and indeed the whole EU. The benefits are of course macro economic and on a basis of international trade and freedom of movement of labour. On the second point that includes the principle that eventually you should enjoy the same rights as an employee, or indeed business owner, which ever member state you live and work in. This extends to health and safety, where Britain is both ahead of many other countries and very keen on being obedient and EU directives into law and some times in the echelons of public service, interpreting them wholly overly zealously and making a mockery of the rules, which the papers love. They are only making fools of themselves if you actually know anything anout HSE.

On that point, it is professionals in HSE, making our places of work and public interaction safer, international traders in goods and finance/investments, multinational managers and especially engineers and quality assurance managers who actually are exposed to the daily administrative benefits of the EU. Far from adding beaurocracy, being able to sell goods under one set of labelling and to agreed qaulity standards is hugely advantageous. Being able to trade and invest within the frame work of cross border laws or a legal playing field which is more even than delaing with 16 countries or more, is a huge time and cost saving advantage, and means that the city of london and the LSE can enjoy much higher parasitic profits on the back of investment and trades than if they had to use more complex legal and trading vehicles to deliver investment, conduct trades in shares etc and then take dividends if they had to deal with legal, computing and of course political boundaries and idiosyncracies.

It seems though that many people working in finance in England and the City are unaware of even some of the direct values and benefits of the EU, warts and all, let alone of the indirect financial benefits. Economics for their level is not granular enough to see that share prices are influenced by the ability to sell one product in at least 10 countries, with one labelling. That say engineering services can be standardised across all member states, plus Norway, and respected internationally by adhering to an ISO European Norm. The financiers do not see that companies who generate real margin, multiplying value are those in food, energy,  manufacturing and technical services that benefit from the ISO EN structure and being able to employ staff from all  over the EU who are qualified and can deliver to those quality standards. And despite all the media guffawing at straight cucumbers, and the definition of a sausage, they fail to see the value of common standards in reducing administration costs and allowing companies to expand sales internationally.

And there is the rub,  the reality street for UKIP and the Tory back bench rebels.  When it comes to nearer the time they will be facing a large back lash from the key international value creation companies, from agricultural wholesalers, from retailers, and probably a very big NO voice from the energy sector. This will then rub off as uncertainty on the stock exchange and 'funny money markets'.

Already though, some key bankers have decided the UK/OK outside the EU will be a very not OK place, open to the cold shoulder of a scorned lady, Angela Merkel, with a powerful stock exchange hungry to take continental investment and banking away from London. The Bank of America, somewhat bigger than the Scottish Economy, are already making contingency plans ie lightly veiled threats, to leave to relocate to Dublin in the event of a pull out.

The Scottish #indyref showed one thing from companies and the 'markets' - they do not like uncertainty and politicians with wish lists and unsubstantiated promises or even presumptions, build a lot of nerves.

In this then, the journalistic style of the BBC and some key national newspapers will change to being openly partisan in the same way they faced Salmond and the YES north of the border, by shouting it down with big figures, businesses threatening to leave and so on.

The UK leaving the EU is a far bigger economic affair than the Scots leaving the old, pretty irrelevant union and hoping to remain in the EU. For the man in the street it means Jobs and Prices. Foreign labour often takes up the jobs with skills gaps or so lowly paid that many in the new graduate majority young work force, refuse to take, and wil live with Mum and Dad rather than putting up with the cheap side of town rentals the Poles and other east europeans just get on with.  Romanian beggars and their criminal husbands are another issue which does not need to be addressed with a referendum.

Unlike the #indyref over the waters of the Tweed, the EU will not be offering a pledge to keep the UK in. There has always been animosity in France and other social democracies towards the UK, as it being a platform for the influence of the USA in particular its military ambitions but also economic power (ironic in the days the TTIP comes into force maybe) . The thought of a UK with the ability to then  use a 'pledge' to try and get a very special arrangement is basically not going to fly. The EU will use all the scare tactics and start to swing public opinion in the UK over time, or simply prepare themselves to inviting bankers and investors to hop over the channel, while making it clear to others that there is no certainty on there being any new agreement which will benefit businesses in an Indy UK.

Like Alec Salmond, Farage could reach out for  Norway as an example, and look to EFTA re-entry. However Norway and Iceland would not want a raving right wing fascist partner and the possibility for discussion about fishing rights. Norway like to cooperate with the EU subtly, on their own terms if possible, in the back rooms of early decision making and early sounding out of directives. They do not want the UKIP with inexperienced blundering nationalist with a big N "diplomats" bludgeoning their way into these committees as an EFTA partner.

Scotland on the other hand could and should have done more work on this with Norway as a potential temporary house for pre EU entry. There is already cross N Sea cooperation by companies and institutions, a common interest in sustaining fisheries , the Norwegian ownership of Scottish fish farms and an amicable histroy between the two nations. Norway with an economy of around 300 billion Euros GDP is at least twice the size of the Scottish economy, so in EFTA it would have a smaller, similar partner. Politically too, Norway like the rest of Scandinavia is a social democracy and not the right wing radical direction the UK has taken since 1979, despite a recent conservative coalition win, they are left of UK Labour on many policies and maintaining much of the status quo. The swedes have just rejected 8 years of cajoling down the Thatcher route of tax cuts for the wealthier, privatisation and power to employers, and voted to  hark back to a more even society, while also splitting the right wing vote by the new fascists in the Svenskademokratinene. The Bedroom tax in any scandinavian country would lead to a media and public scandal when the first wheelchair user was made homeless.

Farage as Herr Chancellor as he would want, and a proposed post #EUref Tory Leader, ie  2015/16 contender to Cameron, would stand like Alex Salmond thinking that they would have all the economic playing cards in their hand, when in fact it is a game of poker ready to be called by a higher royal flush. They cannot go into an #EuRef with that arrogance. They can of course come out of an EU ref YES to separation with a good deal of arrogance,  but face the reality of negotiating themselves a place less strong than even softly/softy/catch/a/monkey Norway has today.

Timetable is another thing. There is indeed provision for EXIT of a member, or indeed a member's distant colonies  where the precedent has been set by Greenland exiting and some French islands. There is provision for discussion of enlargement, criteria for accession and new membership of states outside the EU, but of course as a blinding hole, there by no coincidence, not for States who are divisions of previous member states. The Czechs and Slovaks did the deed prior to EU membership, the Catalans are yet to vote, while the Salmond timetable was based on thin air and wishful thinking, the same as any Farage lead approach to the EU for a new external relationship would be.

The fight will start now, post Scotias vote, to try and limit the traction of UKIP coming into the next election, but it will be hard to avoid a straight ballot on In/Out and Cameron has promised a referendum now and it will be in the manifesto. He cannot get away with a three question or a Quebec subtefuge ten line question with UKIP holding anymore than 20 seats in parliament. It will have to be in out, and then the battle lines for international business are drawn, fight this the way the Scots were  fought, big figures, big risk, low Farage credibility on negotiating back in from the new Cold place out twixt N.Sea and Atlantic.

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