The Grumpy Old Man

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....Brexit comments and other Grumpy observations....

.... An overview of the details and background to Brexit ....

Quick research shows there to be at least eight other EU members, many of whom with internal elections imminent, showing leanings towards withdrawal. There is a common thread running through the reason behind these countries concerns. This is Sovereignty, sometimes called "populism". The countries are Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy and the Netherlands. It is interesting that these countries represent a significant mix of both founder and recent accession countries.

Reading between the lines from many financial reports, it is also quite clear that politically and financially, Italy (one of the larger founder EU economies) is in a right old mess. with little stable government (more governments since WW2 than I've had hot dinners) and in financial crisis. There is talk of banks being bailed out by the government. (Surely that must constitute "State Aid" which is a big no-no for the EU). The case is so bad that some senior German financial experts are already predicting that Italy will leave at least the Eurozone before the end of 2017.

One might also see other exits joining the UK. Thus over the next few years I will be very surprised if we did not see a Frexit (the French), Hexit (a posh Hungary) Nexit (the Netherlands), Dexit (the Danes), Grexit (which we've already seen) and who knows we may even find a Poxit (Poland or Portugal) or even a Sex-it (if Spain wants to join the leavers club)! Prior to the referendum David Cameron, the British Prime Minister negotiated a number of changes he suggested be made to the way the EU operated. He believed such changes, if implemented, could result in a "Remain" outcome of the referendum. What these changes were, never seemed to figure significantly in any of the campaigning. Furthermore, if one looks at the hoops Cameron was made to jump through, it is not surprising that his efforts ultimately reinforced the "Leave" camp argument. In order to get agreement to his ubiquitous piece of paper, he had to go around all other 27 heads of government and get their agreement. The British voting public, I am sure, saw through this rather demeaning task. For heaven's sake, by population, the UK is the second largest member of the EU, and one of the only two net contributors to the burgeoning EU budget. To have to go cap in hand to gain the support of countries with a population of less than half of one percent of that of the UK is hardly a demonstration of UK Sovereignty, and Grumpy believes hardly democratic. Since Grumpy believes Sovereignty was what eventually decided the referendum, Cameron's efforts actually reinforced a major argument of the "Leave" campaign.

I would observe that a number of the countries from whom Cameron sought support had recently been under a totalitarian (dictatorship) government reminiscent of Cold War Eastern Europe. To some members of their population, this must have been acceptable, comfortable and dare I say it, very profitable. It must therefore have seemed odd that the Mother of Democracy should be seeking their support on anything.

On the subject of trade, the Republic of Ireland is exceedingly worried about the loss of access to the UK market for their dairy and other food products. This threat to Irish trade and employment is only made more worrying by suggestions being made by the incoming US administration to "bring back" jobs to the USA. Many jobs in Ireland are dependent on American companies and if it is advantageous to their business, I have no doubt that they will decamp back to the United States at the slightest opportunity.

Another aspect solely relevant is that the Republic of Ireland has the only land border with any part of the United Kingdom. (Except of course the Channel Tunnel). If one analyses the EU referendum result one finds that Northern Ireland, as a region, supported "Remain". One hates to suggest it as there is enough political unrest and distrust in the North already. One can only observe that there is a choice of very simple and rather obvious, if to many, unpalatable, solutions to this conundrum. These are, either the unification of Ireland as a separate, stand-alone state, maybe part of the EU or the current Republic of Ireland maintains its political independence but enters into a free trade agreement with the UK. (Perhaps called British Isles Free Trade Area, or BIFTA for short). Of course, if the second option is followed, the Republic of Ireland may themselves have to leave the EU.

While talking about regional support or otherwise from Brexit, it is impossible to ignore the Scottish "situation". Scotland voted resoundingly to remain part of the United Kingdom in an independence referendum. If one looks at the EU referendum, again on a regional basis, Scotland voted to remain. The Scottish First Minister immediately jumped on that bandwagon and muddied the water by demanding a second independence referendum. (Doesn't this smack of the Irish twice giving the wrong answer to referenda and being told "no, we don't like that, vote again"). Sooner or later, the general populous and particularly the Scots will realise that their current First Minister has no real interest in "in" or "out" of the EU. She is hellbent on having, at all costs, independence for Scotland. She frequently says she is supporting what is best for Scotland. Grumpy would observe that what she really means is, she is supporting what she, personally, thinks is best for Scotland. It's hardly democracy when one person seems to be driving their own private agenda. Apart from that, the Scots have already given their view on independence in an earlier referendum. Also, the act of Parliament establishing a devolved parliament in Scotland is quite specific in stating that matters relating to the EU are not devolved and remain the prerogative of Westminster. Perhaps Ms Sturgeon should start to behave less like a spoilt headmistress, accept the democratic vote of the electorate of The Union as a whole, row in behind the Westminster team and fully play her part in the Brexit negotiations.

A huge contributory factor to the Brexit result was immigration. In simple terms, the UK is now full and has been for a number of years. Since WW2 the UK has a long history of welcoming immigrants from all over the world, particularly from the Caribbean, Asian, African and other Commonwealth countries. I recall a despot in Uganda called Idi Amin who turned round and said all citizens of Indian descent must leave the country within three months. The majority of those displaced came to the UK with nothing and were welcomed. The UK has a huge history of accepting immigrants and has managed to control the numbers herself. It sticks in the throat to have some non-British Eurocratic windbag telling them what they can and cannot do in relation to this very sensitive topic. Grumpy is not racist, in fact he is hugely proud of his British ancestry and the fact that Britain is now a hugely multicultural and multiracial nation. Historically, this multicultural philosophy can be traced back to 1066 and beyond! It is tremendously reassuring to see the immigrants who have made the UK their home in the last 70 years integrating so well into British society without losing their own cultural and ethnic background. It is therefore a liberty, when the country's services are already strained to breaking point, to have immigration quotas imposed by a European bureaucratic dream. It is just not on. One only has to visit such places as Lancashire, Bradford, Leicester Birmingham Bristol and many others, to see that Britain has become a multicultural society. As regards London, it has been said for many years that if you want to meet an Englishman, the last place to go is London. The bottom line is, the immigration "problem" swung the vote. I reiterate, Britain is full. The UK has insufficient housing and the National Health Service is at breaking point. To put it differently, the UK should be able to control who comes into the country not some idealistic edict coming down from Brussels. The UK wants its own Sovereignty and that includes control of her borders.

There have been a number of legal challenges, including one that is going through the High Court at the moment and is due for decision within the next couple of weeks. This particular one is interesting because it has nothing to do directly with Brexit but more with Parliamentary procedure. If one takes a step back, the question seems to be can the government act in this case with Delegated Royal Prerogative (as the decision is believed by some to affect the public's rights and freedoms) without asking Parliament's prior approval. Grumpy is no legal expert but would observe that the people who are being affected have already given their decision and approval to the government's proposed action to activate article 50. As I write, the Supreme Court has given its decision that the Government must secure Parliamentary approval prior to activation of article 50. As a result was by a majority of 8 to 3 it is clear that the legal point being challenged was not completely clear-cut. I understand that a Bill is to be laid before Parliament as soon as possible. At least this represents one potential "downstream" legal challenge removed.

So far, financial experts and the opinion pollsters have been so inaccurate, useless and inept that I feel I must make comment. Although not directly related to Brexit, it is quite fascinating the amount of hot air they produce and how (in)accurate they have regularly been. On the Brexit referendum, opinion pollsters solidly predicted that "Remain" would be the outcome and they got that wrong, as they did with the Scottish Independence Referendum and the last British General Election. In Grumpy's view, that is not a particularly brilliant scoresheet. The financial experts have done no better. Accepting, I admit, that there is a lot of time to run before the full ramifications of Brexit have worked their way through the system, financial predictors banked on a catastrophic fall on the pound taking it down to parity with the euro and a similar fall in domestic financial activity within the UK. Grumpy agrees there was a significant fall in the pound, but not to the extent that parity with the euro was reached. Since then, there has been some recovery, but there is a long way to go. That recovery seems to have been underpinned by the Prime Minister's outline of her Brexit plan. It is unfortunate that so many people take notice of these so-called experts. Even people in such a powerful position as Governor of the Bank of England got it wrong. At the end of the day, it would have been far better if they had all said nowt. Unfortunately in the world in which we live, the news today seems to be more of a prediction of what the news may be tomorrow. With that as an outlook, it's no wonder that the media cling to every weird uttering from these so-called "experts". What annoys Grumpy, is that they invariably seem to get it wrong and, at the end of the day, somebody, somewhere (no doubt me and thee) is actually paying them to get it wrong. But then I suppose that's 21st-century life.

I'm not a huge fan of Donald Trump, but one of his slogans was "put the 'Great' back into America". I have never seen the United States referred to as the Great United States of America, however I do believe the time is coming when the British (English, Scots, Northern Irish and Welsh) will be proud that we have fought the battle together and put the "Great" back into Great Britain by re-gaining our Sovereignty.

But what, you may ask, can the man in the street do? I am reminded of a simple slogan I heard in the 1950s which was "Buy British". Grumpy would update that with his own version so "Keep Calm and Buy British".