Friday, 21 October 2016

More on trade deals, and CETA collapsing.

So today I open Facebook, and see rather a few of my left-leaning friends post the story of the Belgian region of Wallonia causing the EU to, in effect, abandon the CETA trade deal with Canada. Naturally, to the remain camp, this is yet another scare story, I guess because it's meant to "prove" that negotiating trade deals with the EU is a long, windy, and complex process. And indeed it is.

But this story is in fact the exact opposite. It's a stellar example of why we want to leave that club. First off, a core reason why negotiating anything with the EU is because the other party, in effect, is not negotiating with the EU itself, but rather negotiating with 27 separate entities constituting the EU. In fact, arguably this rejection is the result of even more negotiating parties, as it wasn't even the sovereign nation of Belgium rejecting the deal - it was a region within. Picture this scenario, you wish to sell a product, say roses, to your neighbour, who in return wants to trade milk, but rather than dealing with him directly, he decides to pull in 26 family members and friends who also sell their own products - one might even sell a different type of rose! Now you're supposed to outline a deal. Now anyone coming to the conclusion that this will do anything but increase the amount of red tape, exemptions, and bespoke language on a per-product basis in the final deal clearly hasn't paid any attention to how the EU negotiates with her neighbours. Because that's exactly what takes place. Wallonia wants exemptions on milk, Bavaria on cars, Val de Loire on wine, and Peloponnese in Greece on cheese. Good luck sorting all of that out.

The alternative - which is what the UK opted to do - is to negotiate treaties between singular authorities of sovereign nations, not needing the explicit input of each individual region in order to proceed. Now, this might be an argument for the EU superstate, and fair enough, that's what some do wish for. However, that was not on the June the 22nd ballot, and had it been, it's very questionable if the referendum had been even close. Because it would have been the equivalent of transferring negotiating power to Brussels, a loss of sovereignty - an option not palatable to the clear majority of voters.

Finally, I want to point out the sheer ludicrousness of lefties actually wanting this deal to go through considering I see so many denouncing the TPP, for especially the ISDS chapter. Well, guess what. ISDS provisions exist in CETA just as well. If you're for the CETA, you're very for the TPP just as well.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Why we should leave the EU, part 2. Trade deals (aka "the uncertainty issue")

a) There would have been no point in negotiating exit trade deals, as Germany and France especially would have made no realistic effort towards productive talks. As they don’t want the UK to leave (they need others to help pay the bills), it would be entirely in their interest to obstruct these negotiations in every way possible, thereby creating what would appear an exit path fraught with uncertainty.

b) Although 50+% of our exports go to the Eurozone, that is largely because those nations constitute our neighbours, and not implicitly because of the Eurozone itself. In fact, virtually all nations in the world trade mainly with countries in geographical proximity, with some notable particular exceptions such as China, who essentially act as a global manufacturing base.

c) As for the UK “being too small to cut trade deals”, that’s simply not true. The UK is a major global economy, and far smaller nations have cut their own trade deals - Canada being an example in this regard. A/NZ another.

d) Speaking of trade deals, the EU at present has free trade deals with many nations, including the likes of Kosovo, Lebanon, Mexico, and even Palestine - which isn't even a country. On this basis, why would they reject one with a neighbour, which also happens to be the fifth largest economy in the world?

e) Cutting trade altogether, or even introducing nuclear tariff systems, is two steps short of declaring outright war in today’s interconnected world. This is not something done lightly, in fact apart from sanctions introduced vs Russia, post-Crimea, we haven’t seen any examples of this in our part of the world for many years.

f) The EU, as noted above, already feels the pull from the spiralling drain. It wouldn’t take much to tip especially the South back into recession, creating significant systemic risk in the process, and the firepower simply isn’t there to fight yet another looming economic disaster. Were EU members wanting to ‘punish’ the UK for its decision by referendum, they would in effect be playing chicken with their own economies.

g) So in short, it is in everyone’s interest to cooperate. Sure, the EU could hypothetically impose nuclear tariffs, impose significant travel restrictions, and attempt to hurt the UK in any way possible, but the ensuing recoil on their own economies could equally devastate them.

h) Were the EU to ignore all sense and reason and drastically impose the above mentioned sanctions upon the UK in the event of an exit, they in essence confirm their status as a deeply undemocratic organisation which takes more interest in their own institutional survival, than acting on the behalf of their electorate. And I can think of no better reason to want out, because that’s a hallmark of any authoritarian governance.

Finally, yes, there will be a period of instability should we decide to leave. But this election is not about the short term. And in the long run, I personally think the UK will be better off out, especially given the systemic issues plaguing the South of Europe, which will eventually spring back to life.

Why we should leave the EU

a) The EU is fundamentally anti-democratic. They have a parliament in which members of which can not introduce laws, or have them repealed. All laws are penned and introduced by the commission. MEPs can vote on these, even suggest changes, but the commission is free to ignore all said communication.

b) The EU is essentially a basketcase, financially. The entire of Club Med still persists in dire straits, in desperate need of avoiding another recession. Public sector debt ratios are historically high, and it's obvious to everyone paying attention that these will never be repaid in an honest way. Greece are inching closer to 200% debt/GDP mark, Italy at around 135%, and Spain crossed the 100% recently - with a historic level of unemployment to boot.

c) Italy's private banking sector has 360bn Euro of non-performing loans on their balance sheets, with an additional 180bn in distress - amounting to roughly 25% of their GDP. There is simply insufficient capital to bail them out without extraordinary policy, and where is the political goodwill for another round of escalating bailouts to big banks? Politicians agreeing to this wouldn’t survive the next election.

d) Greece are months, even weeks away from needing another bailout, although obviously, it's won't be called that. Oh, and 45% of all private loans in Greece are non-performing, meaning a bank collapse would be upcoming were it not for continuous behind-the-scenes borderline corruption by the ECB and their various colleagues in European national banks. Did you know that is was illegal for the ECB to engage in QE programs until fairly recently? Well, it was, and then lawyers located a convenient loophole, and suddenly it was just A-OK.

e) Since 2008, the EU has seen anaemic growth (in the 1% range), and the entire zone depends on Germany, not entering a recession. The UK has done far better in this regard. In fact, of the entire developed world, only really Japan has done as poorly as the EU.

f) The above issues b-e will eventually be "solved" through full fiscal union. By then, per decree, the North will be forced to continuously pay for the South. And once that ball is in motion, there will be no reason for the South to even attempt to balance their budgets.

g) And then there's Merkel's audacity, and borderline dictatorial behaviour in dealing with immigration.

h) Finally, the EU actually want to ban "right wing extremism", by punishing nations electing these. Yes, Juncker actually said this (though obviously, the definition in this regard will be so vague it can be applied to practically anything). That's right. Your vote WILL be overruled by a bunch of unelected bureaucrats in the heart of Europe if or when they see fit, because they are your rulers and you better accept it. Because fuck you, that's why.

Oh, and btw - did anyone tell you that we're technically overdue a recession?

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

The BBC and its alleged EU impartiality.

Living in the UK, you tend to hear a lot about the BBC and its supposed impartiality. By law, the BBC is supposed to be impartial, and were you to ask people on the political left, the opinion generally suggests that those questioning the impartiality of the BBC are an inch or two short of crackpots. However, on the right public opinion isn't quite as simple. On a number of occasions, audiences and/or panels appear to have been stacked (especially when it comes to Question Time), and the Conservatives (and especially UKIP) have been on the receiving end of exceedingly harsh treatment, leading to the Conservatives reviewing BBC funding as a result of their 2015 election coverage. License payer fees are obviously not to benefit one political party over another, yet that is exactly what appear to be happening. And should you look into past controversies, it's clear that impartiality has not always exactly been a priority within the walls of the BBC.

Wikipedia have an entire article on this topic - "Criticism of the BBC" [1]. Most telling is this quote from their former Director General -

"Mark Thompson, Director General of the BBC said in 2010 "In the BBC I joined 30 years ago [as a production trainee, in 1979], there was, in much of current affairs, in terms of people's personal politics, which were quite vocal, a massive bias to the left. The organisation did struggle then with impartiality." [5]"

Needless to say, this remains a hotly debated topic, and this is far from the only quote to support the case. The BBC defend themselves using a Cardiff University study, which allegedly show the Conservatives receiving more air time than Labour, with more focus on Tory ministers than equivalent Labour shadow ministers. Two problems however - the Tories were in power at the time, meaning it's only natural they get more exposure, and b) The BBC commissioned and PAID for this study. Much like Microsoft commissioned studies showing Microsoft Vista being the favoured consumer OS back in 2006, this blatantly has potential conflicts of interest undermining its supposed credibility.

However, the political bias of the BBC was not really what I wanted to focus on here. We're currently in the run-up to the EU referendum on the 23rd of June. And once again, the "alleged" impartiality of the BBC rears its ugly head. We are supposed to be broadcast an evenly matched Stay/Leave informative trail, but that is not what appears to be happening - the claim is that the EU is in the camp of Stay. Now, rather than go through various articles here and there, I wish to focus on just one thing - funding. External funding, to be precise. You can of course claim that external funds make no differences in terms of bias or partiality, but then you'd have to accept that the various large donors to political parties - including unions - do so exclusively for altruistic reasons.

To start off with, the BBC runs a trust formerly known as "The BBC World Service Trust", now "BBC Media Action". Although supposedly financially independent, it has received over 30m Euro of EU funding during 2007-2014 - translating to just over 4m euro each year. This is all public information - head over to the EU's financial transparency system website and check for yourself [5]. Now, obviously, the counterargument is that since this is a financially independent institution, it won't impact the BBC - however, facts are that a) the BBC will scoop up goodwill by having their brand attached, and b) there's a large overlap in directorships between the BBC and their Media Action group - the Telegraph goes further into details in this regard. Furthermore, given an annual budget around the 40m mark, this would suggest EU funding makes up about 8% of their total funding. Should the BBC start broadcasting euro-skeptic information, what would happen to those 8%? Can anyone point me to a single case of the EU funding openly EU skeptical institutions to the tune of 4m Euros/year? I certainly haven't found any.

Furthermore, in terms of direct funding, the BBC received about £1m of EU funds in the period April 2011 - November 2013 specifically for programming [9]. Note that this information wasn't even in the public domain until a freedom of information request was successfully lodged by the Spectator [7].

In 1993, the EU commissioned and paid for a member of the European Parliament, Willy deClercq, to write a little known document by the catchy name of "Reflection on Information and Communication Policy of the European Community[8]. This document outlines "marketing techniques" which are to "sell the European Union to its citizens" - it frankly reads like brainwashing 101. I've included some passages below, but heavily recommend you read the document in full. Take note of the highlighted sections below - they specifically cover who to target by the EU funded propaganda, how, and who should fund it... and next we find that the BBC receive EU funds for programming? What an extraordinary coincidence.

This is not to say that this is conclusive evidence of the EU conspiring with public broadcasters (in this case, the BBC) to brainwash target demographics using taxpayer funds. But it's certainly an extraordinary coincidence. Yes, that's what it is - an extraordinary coincidence.

"Youth : Young people of different nationalities in Europe probably have more in common with each other than they do with their parents. They are certainly more open to European values and ideals than the older generations. Since it is strategically wise to go where the resistance is least, young people should be a primary target for persuasion and conviction." [page 12]

"The communication of 'Europe' must be a continuous process of education, culture and formation, starting at secondary school stage. School books should be reviewed, not in order to rewrite history, but to ensure that a European dimension is given to our past, and that the events leading up to European Union are explained to, and understood by school children. The European dimension should be emphasized particularly in subjects such as geography, history, economics and civics. More European schools should also be encouraged." [page 27]

"The programmes must be total and continuous, covering television, radio and press relations, editorial support, advertising, public relations, direct marketing, public speaking, interviews, visits by special-interest groups, special issue EC postage stamps (with ECU equivalent values), the publication of specific-interest pamphlets, etc." [page 31]

"Co-funding of national campaigns by the Commission is one way to ensure that the Commission is involved in national campaigns before they are launched. " [page 32]

"Newscasters and reporters must themselves be targeted, they must themselves be persuaded about European Union. It is crucial to change their opinions first, so that they subsequently become enthusiastic supporters of the cause. " [page 35]